The Haven – January update
This month our project update focuses on Melanie – one of our many younger visitors, who has joined our Younger Women’s Support Group at The Haven. We help women of all ages, and the risk of breast cancer increases as you get older – 1 in 8 women are now at risk of getting this disease at some point in their lives. We hope this case study highlights for all our supporters the importance of the support we provide to women like Melanie.
Thank you to all of you that have supported us so generously so far.
Melanie Daly, 44, Putney, London
Going through breast cancer as a young woman and with little family support is really isolating and you have different concerns to older women. That’s why the Younger Women’s Support Group at the Haven is so important to me.
I have always been fit and healthy, I go to the gym regularly, eat well and look after myself, so it was a real shock when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I felt cheated. I’m young, this isn’t supposed to happen to me now - it’s not in the game plan.
Treatment was really hard. It included a lumpectomy, six lots of chemo and 26 days of radiotherapy. I don’t have much family and it was daunting to face it alone. I felt very isolated.
Despite feeling physically and emotionally drained I had to continue working. I live alone and do contract work, so couldn’t afford not to be earning. At first I was in denial. This thing was just happening to me but I was trying to carry on as normal. It was only when all my hair fell out that reality hit me. I looked like a cancer patient.
Many other women I met were much older than me. No disrespect to them and what they were going through but they just had such different concerns. They had already had their families and careers. I remember being in a Lympoedema group and saying, “I want to be able to get back to the gym” and they were saying, “ I just want to be able to do the ironing”! In a way that made me feel worse – why me? Why now? I’m in my prime!
Someone at The Marsden told me about The Haven. It was the Younger Women’s Support Group that turned things around for me. I walked in and everyone was like me. I finally felt “this is the place for me!” I’ve come most months since then and it is a huge relief to talk to women with similar concerns such as, having a family, earning money, having a fulfilling career and staying fit. In the early days it was reassuring to meet people further on in their recovery. It’s great to know your eyelashes will eventually grow back! Now I also hope I can offer others some inspiration.
Although I still have my dark times and Taxmoxifen still sometimes makes me feel like I’m trapped in an old lady’s body – I’m alive! A friend gave me a card which sums it up. It said: “Just when the caterpillar thought that life was over, she turned into a butterfly”. My friends at the Young Woman’s Support Group have really helped me be that butterfly.