Sue’s blogging about… Freddie’s Friends Support Group

freddies friends headerFreddie’s Friends is the support group run by YouCan and the staff from Charles Dickens Ward in Maidstone Hospital.

Freddie’s Friends was started by Hayley Martin, a young mum receiving palliative treatment for colon cancer, in January 2015. Her little boy is called Freddie and the group is named after him.

Hayley said “I started this support group so that other people like me who have been diagnosed with cancer have somewhere to come when they want to talk to other people in a similar situation. It is also really hard for our family and friends seeing loved ones going through cancer treatment. Freddie’s Friends can provide a comforting, relaxed environment to be able to speak openly about any worries, share tips, experiences and to generally feel that you are not alone.”

Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting Hayley but her group is still going strong all these years later.

I started going to Freddie’s Friends in January 2017. I had just had my first chemo treatment earlier in the month and one of the nurses mentioned it to me. Straight off the bat, I knew this was something I wanted to be involved in because everyone was so welcoming and helpful. The monthly meetings at held at Kits Coty, Aylesford, in the function room, so I knew anything I wanted to talk about was being said in a safe place. Also, they provide free soft drinks and cheesy chips – bonus!

Since then I’ve been to many of the Freddie’s Friends meet ups, treatment permitting. We’ve done reiki, yoga, had talks from a nutritionist, had a meal in town, an introduction to boot camp and a look good feel better workshop. So as you can see, it’s very varied! But there is always time to meet other young people in a similar situation, and this is invaluable. Group sizes range from 6, to 16, to 26, so there is plenty of room for all! Feel free to bring a family member or friend too, the group is to support them too.

And don’t just take my word for it! Here are some testimonials from people who attend Freddie’s Friends:

Kerry Ann, 32: Breast Cancer

“I cannot express how much Freddie’s Friends have made a difference to me going through my treatment for breast cancer. This support group has helped me feel like I’m not alone. I will continue to go after my treatment has finished.”

 

Tom, 23: Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

“Since the first meeting we had for Freddie’s Friends it has been such a personal boost to meet such friendly, positive and supportive people in a similar situation to mine. Being able to relate to each other’s experiences in invaluable in a way I never fully expected.”

 

Caroline, 24: Brain Tumour

“It’s lovely to find a support group that has enabled me to build friendships in my local area. It’s a very welcoming group which has helped with my confidence and social skills.”

 

Katie, 23: Caroline’s Friend

“I go to Freddie’s Friends support group as a support for my friend. It is so great to finally find a group which helps people who are at different stages in their cancer and also welcomes family and friends too.”

 

Laura, 32: Bowel Cancer

“Freddie’s Friends is really important to me as it provides me with help and support without which I would not have made it through my treatment and been able to return to work. The support group is amazing as it has allowed me to talk about and accept what I have been through when I needed to do this however it has also helped me escape from it all as well by organising events that have totally taken my mind off of everything and allowed me to have fun which is something that I never imagined could happen whilst going through treatment. I would have been really lost without the support of the Freddie’s Friends group and the friends that I have made from this group.”

 

If you would like to come along, Freddie’s Friends is held every third Wednesday of the month at Kits Coty, Aylesford, ME20 7EZ from 7pm – 9pm.

Please contact YouCan and come along!  

Tel: 01732 844874  Email: hello@youcan.org.uk

#freddiesfriends #youcan #youcansupport #supportgroup #kitscoty

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Sue’s blogging about… a year on from diagnosis

The 19th September 2016. A now notorious date in my calendar. A year on I’ve had a lot of time to reflect a lot of those first few days after diagnosis. Here are some of my musings…

 

I’d just started a new job as a primary school teacher and it came like a bolt out of the blue. Literally – a shooting pain in my chest that woke me one 3am morning and I found a lump. Thinking I must be mistaken – tired, groggy, possibly hallucinating – I didn’t think of it again until morning. Luckily my fiancé persuaded me to get it checked out – as a teacher we are always coming down with coughs and colds… me? Go see a doctor?!

Below pic: I had found the lump and was waiting on a referral from my GP.

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My GP referred me, telling me she didn’t think for one second it would be anything sinister but as a precaution I was sent to the Peggy Wood Clinic at Maidstone Hospital. On arrival, I was again told that they thought at worst it would be a cyst – you’re too young, no family history, etc etc. but they went forward with tests just to double check. Well, blow me down, I had ALL the tests done – physical, sonogram, mammogram, 3D mammogram… It was only when they asked for a biopsy that I realised this could be a bit more serious than first thought. That said, even when they lead me into the Room of Doom I still wasn’t really engaging with everything that was going on. After all, I was three weeks into a new school term, I had planning and marking to do for the following day!

I don’t remember much from the conversation in the Room of Doom. I remember the doctor say “It’s probably breast cancer….. is that what you were expecting to hear today?” and I genuinely remember nothing else. Luckily my amazing Breast Care Nurse was there taking meticulous notes (that I requested a few days later when I had the presence of mind to ask questions). I didn’t know it at the time, due to the horrific shock I’d just received, but my life had suddenly changed. No more new job. I had a life-threatening illness. At 31! Surely that wasn’t right… Suddenly my new job was breast cancer and it consumed every waking hour of my life. (There is a brilliant blog by Alice May Purkiss where she describes getting diagnosed as a job you didn’t apply for. Use the link to read it here… after you’ve finished this blog of course! https://alicemaypurkiss.co.uk/2015/12/27/youre-hired/)

My treatment plan was organised pretty quickly. I had a lumpectomy to remove the tumour and my surgeon was amazing. I’ve had six cycles of FEC chemotherapy (or feccing chemo as it came to be known) and 20 sessions of daily radiotherapy. Throughout treatment I lost my hair, my energy, my independence and my spark. Chemotherapy was particularly tough on me and I felt very isolated and alone.

Then I was introduced to an amazing charity – this charity – YouCan. They provided me with reiki during chemotherapy, reflexology during radiotherapy and offered me a place on a Wellness Weekend, which I gladly accepted. The Wellness Weekend was of particular benefit to me as it came the weekend before my last chemotherapy. I got to spend some quality time with my sister and some amazing people at different stages of their diagnosis. We did yoga, had facials and massages, did some art therapy and met with an informative nutritionist. After the weekend I felt relaxed, happy and more importantly, more mentally ready to tackle my final chemo session – by this time I was getting both tired and, quite frankly, sick of it all. Also, the Wellness Weekend made me feel less alone – there were people out there my age going through what I was going through. I’d spent time with them and they were awesome. For that, I can’t thank YouCan enough.

Below pic: Here I am half way through chemotherapy just after a Look Good Feel Better course.

LGFB pic

Now that I’m done with active treatment I still access the alternative therapies from time to time. However, now I’m trying to reclaim my body after it had been ravished by cancer treatment and YouCan are still helping me with that. They have provided me with a Personal Trainer who is helping me get my strength up ready for the YouCan 5k I’ll be attempting in October. Those who know me well know that any exercise, let alone running, really isn’t my bag. But the PT I’ve received so far – along with my own training using a couch to 5k app – has not only made me feel amazing (endorphins, who knew?!) but has helped me lose some of that blasted chemo weight.

So now, I’m a year of from diagnosis, it’s my so-called ‘cancerversary’ and quite a lot has changed… I’ve had the tumour removed from my body and been told after chemo and radiotherapy that I am NED – no evidence of disease. All good news. But my actual day to day life has changed. I’m no longer a teacher and I think it’s unlikely I’ll go back to the profession. Certain smells bring back memories of chemotherapy which make me gag. I can no longer eat certain foods – mac and cheese, jolly ranchers, pickled beetroot, vimto, just to name a few –  as I ate them during treatment and just the thought of them makes me gag (though arguably I should be cutting most of those things out of my diet anyway!) I no longer look like me – I’m still a bit puffy from treatment. Whilst I’m not bald any more I’m sporting a fluffy boy crop (maybe my hair will grow back curly?!) I’m suffering from some super fun menopausal symptoms thanks to the hormone treatment I’ll have to take for the next ten years. I don’t even feel like me, the old me, this has fundamentally changed me.

Below pic: My chemo session 1-6, left down then right down. For a while I was sporting the ‘Jack Sparrow’ look, as one of my sisters called it. So I changed it up but according to my other sister  my new scarf style made me look like Professor Lupin! (Harry Potter professor for you non-Potter Heads) So in the end I just stuck with an array of wigs (I could write a blog just on head wear, I have so much!) then just went bald due to the heat.

IMG_9814

 

But I’m optimistic and I’m getting used to the ‘new me’, figuring out my ‘new normal’. I’ve armed myself with knowledge about nutrition, physical activity and alternative therapies, all with the hope of avoiding the dreaded word ‘reoccurrence’. I’ve realised that I’m stronger than I thought and that my body is capable of amazing things. My support network has grown from family and amazing friends to also include my Freddie’s Friends pals and other members of the cancer network.

Also, as a happy way to mark the day I’m getting to live a 15 year long dream… I’m going to see the Foo Fighters! So now the 19th September will always be known as ‘The Day I Saw One of My Favorite Bands’. That sounds much better to me 😊

#youcan #youcansupport #youcanblog #youngadultsupport #youngadultcancersupport         #volunteering #cancer #support #primarybreastcancer #breastcancer #cancerversary #foofighters

Running, running, running, running…

Running_1

I don’t know about you but I find running super hard. I’m training (and I use the word loosely) for the  YouCan 5k at Leeds Castle in a few weeks time. So, to help me out and give me some more motivation I made this Spotify playlist.

Hope this helps you with your training!

https://open.spotify.com/user/richx2004/playlist/5zYVzgM2BuyGvciMpZguus?si=ZlZS4xjK

Also, any suggestions for running songs please add in the comments and I’ll pop them on the playlist.

#youcan #youcanrun #leedscastle #runningmusic #musicisgoodforthesoul

Sue’s Blogging about… an Introduction

radiotherapy pic.png

Hi everyone! I’m Sue and I’ll be taking over the YouCan blog for a while.

I just thought I’d quickly introduce myself. September last year I was diagnosed with primary breast cancer – a shocking and horrific experience for anyone, let alone someone who was only 31. I will do another blog talking in more detail about that later on.

I’ve come to volunteer at YouCan, which I’m really excited about. Amongst other things, I’ll be contributing to this blog with articles, bios, explanations of complimentary therapies and many more things so watch this space!

#youcan #youcansupport #youcanblog #youngadultsupport #youngadultcancersupport  #workspace #volunteering #cancer #support #primarybreastcancer #breastcancer