After noticing a swelling in her breast Sue Mordecai found the hardest part of facing breast cancer wasn’t diagnosis or chemotherapy but AFTER treatment ended.
“I didn’t have clear symptoms,” she said.
“There was no lump but it felt swollen and uncomfortable when anything touched the skin.”
Sue went to her local GP and was referred to the breast clinic where she had a mammogram, ultrasound scan, and biopsy.
A week later she was given the devastating news that she had breast cancer.
“That week was extremely difficult,” she said.
“The consultant had planted the idea in my head that it might be cancer so I was prepared but it was still a shock.”
Sue then had to break the news to her husband and two grown-up sons before starting treatment within two weeks.
She had a lumpectomy and lymph node biopsy in November and started chemotherapy in the New Year.
“Everything happened very fast,” she said.
‘Where do I go now?’
Sue used a cold cap during her chemotherapy to try and keep her long hair and fringe but most of her hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes fell out during the treatment.
She had six cycles of chemotherapy and continued to work in between treatments despite suffering from fatigue.
The grandmother of two finished her hospital treatment in July 2015 – but said it was then that the real challenge started.
“I just thought: ‘Where do I go now?’,” she recalled.
“Up to that point you always have a hospital appointment booked.
“You always know when you’re next going to see a doctor and there’s always someone there to look after you.
“Then all of a sudden there’s nothing at all.
“When my treatment ended I did feel like I was on my own and I had nowhere to go.”
According to figures from Breast Cancer Care nearly half (48%) of patients feel low or depressed when their primary treatment ends.
A survey carried out by the charity revealed 61% of patients felt the people around them expected them to “move on” from cancer before they were ready.
The findings also showed 60% felt they needed extra support to manage worries about cancer coming back while 39% felt isolated by the ongoing side effects of treatment.
In response to these concerns the charity launched a course called Moving Forward, in partnership with the NHS, aiming to support patients after their treatment has finished.
Moving Forward course
Linda McCarthy, Wales regional head for Breast Cancer Care, said: “Many women tell us this is the hardest time as they lose the support network they’ve had throughout treatment.
“They’re expected to be celebrating but actually many are still struggling with things like body confidence, long-lasting side effects of treatment, and fear of the cancer coming back.”
Sue attended a four-week Moving Forward course in Llantrisant last summer where experts were brought in to talk about diet and exercise, relationships and signs of recurrence.
“I had a really good group of friends around me but I did struggle with body confidence,” she said.
“I felt a bit anxious about going along to the course but it was really positive and helpful to be with other women who had gone through the same experiences as me.”
The Moving Forward courses run every month throughout Wales. The next will take place in Llanelli starting on July 12.
For more information call 0808 800 6000 or visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk
Living with cancer