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I grew up in the UK, then moved to Barbados. At the age of 23, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I came back to the UK from Barbados for my treatment. The cancer was found to be stage 3 and I would need chemotherapy, plus internal and external radiotherapy.
My anxiety and stress was through the roof and I had so many questions. My situation meant I had even more to navigate on top of the diagnosis - I didn’t know what care I qualified for and there were problems with my insurance. I was in pain all the time as the tumour pressed on nerves in my pelvis. I’d already been told that there was no time to wait and did not have time to freeze my eggs. It was so fast, I had no idea how the treatment was going to make me feel. Despite the urgency, my insurance problems meant that my treatment was delayed. I was so scared that the cancer was spreading while I waited.
I knew I needed help. I was googling how to get support and luckily I found the Jo’s Helpline. I called to ask what was on offer and I was pointed towards the 1:1 service, which sounded like what I needed. I really wasn’t sure if I would be OK. I was so glad I had somebody to speak to first.
I had support from my friends and family so I didn’t feel alone, but nobody knew what I was going through. No one else could talk to me about how the future would look, what treatment would be like, which symptoms to worry about, the ways I felt. Every time I spoke about the sadness I felt, I was met with people telling me to ‘be positive’. My 1:1 sessions, and the Jo’s Forum were spaces where I was told that my feelings were normal. I could vent, I could get tips from others. I got productive help rather than just positivity.
I could feel when treatment started that the pain was going away. Then, my body started to react very badly to the chemotherapy and my kidney function dropped significantly. I honestly thought I was going to die. Plus, I was trying to sort out paperwork and bills while feeling the most unwell I’ve ever felt in my life. There were certain things my husband could help to do, but often the insurance company only wanted to speak with me. My mental capacity was just not there. Hannah, on the 1:1 service, helped me, and we would talk through a plan of action. I could put my thoughts in the space we created, hear them, organise them and get things sorted out. It was like a diary or an idea bank. Hannah was the perfect person to speak to as she was calm, resourceful, and was not in the immediate stress of it all like my husband. She could tell me which ideas made the most sense.
The service was very personal. With all the hardships I went through, I felt that Hannah was interested and invested in my journey. She was actually so excited when I finally got in for treatment, and we celebrated together! I look forward to telling her when the plans we put in place together work out, and it’s so nice to celebrate little milestones with someone who gets it. As I told her what was on my mind, she would give me different places I could research, she would send me webinars, stories from other young women, tools to help me manage the menopause and so on.
I am glad I found the 1:1 service when I did, at the beginning of my journey. It meant that I knew what was coming and what to expect. My oncologist would have been so annoyed if I had asked everything that was on my mind - having Hannah to ask was so helpful! It gave me peace of mind and guided me through the complicated journey. Hannah doesn’t use abbreviations or acronyms - she uses human words that I can understand and explains things fully.
Mental health is so important on this journey. I have tried to stay positive, but on the days that I wasn’t OK, I really needed the help I got from Hannah. Managing your emotions helps you manage. Even if you don’t think you need the support, you will get more out of the service than you think.