I am 69, happily married to my second husband, a mother of three grown up children and now an enthusiastic grandmother. I started my career as a social worker but came into my own as a manager, first in social services, then in a medical practice and later in magazine publishing. For many years I was active in community issues and campaigns. In my 60s I started a four year course to become a homeopath but the plan jerked to an abrupt halt after I was diagnosed with a four centimetre breast tumour, and I had to abandon the final year.

The diagnosis came at a time of considerable stress in my life; initially I refused to face it. By the time I emerged from denial the lump had doubled in size. What might have been a lumpectomy had become a full mastectomy and, as it turned out, axillary clearance / removal of 18 lymph nodes.

I came to The Haven when I felt confident about travelling through London on my own, about 4 months after surgery. I had struggled mightily with each new treatment choice, finally refusing chemotherapy and opting for more targeted radiation treatment instead. I had wonderful medical support throughout from all the (orthodox) medics as well as my excellent homeopath. Both the surgery and the radiation treatment went well, and the recuperation exercises were invaluable.

It was very important to me to feel I owned my treatment decisions; at the time a number of people, including my children, were anxious about my decision to refuse chemotherapy. Some people were outspokenly critical. As a holistic thinker I was very reluctant to start ongoing systemic hormone drug treatment, and The Haven gave me support at this difficult point, validating my need to make the decision in my own time. In the event, I did start taking the drug some six months later. It took me all this time to study the facts, talk to people, and allow my gut feelings to emerge with clarity.

The Haven was inspirational, and Caroline’s Mindful Meditation classes in that room were a godsend, as were the related CDs. They set me on a healing journey of daily meditation. Also memorable was a review with Nadia after I had made a life-changing decision. The nutrition booklet proved a valuable catalyst – it led me to a nutritionist and I am now committed to (mostly!) healthy eating. Not to forget the aromatherapy sessions which impart a delicious sense of hope and peace. There is a lot on offer at The Haven - something for everyone.

Paradoxically my cancer has brought me many benefits and blessings. I feel closer now to my family than ever: it has been humbling to feel so much love and support. And the kindness and concern of my friends has warmed my heart. Three years later I am still very much here. Actually, more here than before.

Cancer has led me to a number of changes in outlook. I am more self-determining. I am opting for ‘wants’ and steadily eliminating ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’.  Not easy to do, but what a liberation. I feel I am regaining my soul.  The world looks brighter and my sparkle is returning.

My message to others with breast cancer is this: consider that life is sending you a strange present. Maybe your body is wiser than you and manifesting, externally, a deep inner malaise. Listen to its wisdom. This is your chance to change your life so it becomes the way you want it to be.

Take it one day at a time. Stay open.