I was pretty proactive with screening because my maternal aunt had breast cancer, but when I asked my radiographer “what do you think” and his sharp intake of breath confirmed the worst, I was totally unprepared for the complete shock I felt. Our adopted boys were then 8 and 11 and my first thought was that I didn’t want to die and abandon the boys – they had already had the upheaval of adoption in their young lives – I couldn’t do it to them again.

Following the initial shock and fear I became strangely calm. I didn’t want the boys to suspect that anything was at all wrong. They needed stability in their lives so until we knew what we were dealing with, I wanted to keep things as normal as possible for them. I got on with telling my close friends and waiting for my treatment. I had a lumpectomy, six cycles of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The cumulative effect of all this made me feel awful. Chemo leaves you very vulnerable to any infections and although I looked after myself and stayed away from lots of people, I just could not miss my sons’ Christmas concerts, so I took the risk and sure enough I caught a cold which put me in hospital for five days.

I picked up a leaflet about The Haven at hospital when I was first diagnosed. I was keen to try anything that might help, so I came in and met the nurse specialist who discussed what support might be most beneficial for me. I spoke to the nutritional therapist who analysed my diet and suggested practical ways that I could improve it; maintain a good weight and even out the peaks and dips in my energy levels. I also had acupuncture which helped to increase my white blood cell count so that I could stay on schedule with my chemotherapy appointments. Keeping to schedule was really important to us as a family because changes to the plan were very unsettling for the boys. I also knew that I needed some help in managing stress on a long term basis and this is where mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) really helped. I went to a class and could see how it would be really useful so I signed up for the Haven course to learn more and I can now practice it at home and it has become a part of my life.

Coming to The Haven has been very good for me. Even just coming in for lunch, to read some books and have a chat with some of the other women going through the same thing is very restorative. You don’t have to explain your situation to everyone – they all just understand.