In 1978, a week before my sixteenth birthday, I was told that I had Hodgkins Disease. For the next three years I received the very best treatment available but needless-to-say I went through some very hard times. In those days there weren't effective anti-sickness drugs, CT machines were few and far between and complementary therapies were only found in fairy tales.
The next twenty years of my life were brilliant but in 2001 the side effects of the radiotherapy I had received started to become apparent. I soldiered on as my thyroid was taken out and a malignant melanoma was excised from my arm. I even got used to having the recurring basal cell carcinomas on my torso removed once a quarter. Then in 2004 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and my life went into freefall.
I had my first mastectomy, I had the chemotherapy, I lost my hair and I spent a lot of time looking at the same four walls. My doctors, friends and family were and are fantastic, but I felt that I needed something more.
Over the years I had driven past the Cancer Help Centre but I had never contacted them. However, whilst in hospital having my second (prophylactic) mastectomy I started talking to another patient who was very enthusiastic about the place. She assured me that the Centre worked in conjunction with the doctors and, encouraged by her experience, I joined.
Oh how I wish I had become a member earlier. The complementary therapies I receive lift my spirits; the Younger Peoples Support Group enables me to talk to like-minded individuals and the craft workshop allows me to express myself through art. The most gratifying aspect though is the laughter, the camaraderie and the inspiration I get from the other members.
I have lived with cancer for a long time and I know that there are no certainties in life and nobody has all the answers but my advice is that if you have cancer and need support, don't drive past the Cancer Help Centre - drop in!