Louise turned to Breast Cancer Now for support during a lonely time, mid-pandemic. To give back, she got involved in volunteering opportunities, including our Voices network. Our Voices are a group of people affected by breast cancer who’ve signed up to help shape our work. Louise talks about her breast cancer experience, why she became a Voice and how joining the network has impacted her.
Can you tell us about your diagnosis?
In January 2020, I was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer with lymph node involvement, about to start a journey of chemo, surgery and radiotherapy taking 6 to 9 months. Little did I know that a worldwide COVID pandemic was looming - 2 chemo’s in, my support network disappeared overnight. But here I am, 3 clear mammograms in, ever thankful for my treatment and support from others.
I won’t lie, going through breast cancer in a pandemic, age 54, living on my own, it was extremely tough at times. There were some very dark moments – often in the middle of the night when sleep escaped me. But it was a new experience for both patients and medical staff, a world of unknown.
How did you get support during this time?
I’m grateful that despite the pandemic, the support was still there, albeit slightly different to what I planned. My support came in the form of doorstep deliveries, telephone support, driveway chats and of course, Breast Cancer Now’s Someone Like Me volunteer service.
Having chats with a like-minded volunteer was amazing. It made me determined to give back and become a volunteer after my recovery. And I did just that and I’ve been a volunteer for 2 years now.
How has being a volunteer impacted you?
It’s so rewarding - I’ve been honoured to support and chat to others going through the same thing I did. I get what others are experiencing, so to help them on their journey and out the other side is something you cannot put a value on, but it is high.
Leading on from Someone Like Me, I joined volunteering opportunities like the Pink Ribbon Walks, The Show and the Voices network.
Why did you decide to become a Voice?
You feel like you’re playing a role in shaping the future of Breast Cancer Now (however small that might be). For me, this was getting involved in research questionnaires as well as university studies around coping with breast cancer during a pandemic.
It can really push you out of your comfort zone.
Which opportunities have you got stuck into within the Voices network?
Belonging to the Voices network has opened an avenue of opportunities, ones I may not have looked at previously. Being involved in the We’re Here campaign in 2022, sharing my experience of having lymphoedema, was fantastic. And to be featured in the Metro was a proud moment. I’ve also been asked to write pieces on my experience of having chemo, for Breast Cancer Now’s show, The Chat.
How has being a Voice impacted you?
I believe it’s helped me turn negatives into positives. I can continue to see how I can help others and hopefully make a difference. It goes a little outside of my comfort zone but for the right reasons.
As a Breast Cancer Voice, you can shape research across the UK and our work at Breast Cancer Now. By using your experience, stories, or skills, you can play a part in supporting our world-class research and life-changing care.
Find out more and sign up to become a Voice.