Oa set up littlelifts as a way of supporting people in active cancer treatment. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she is still making sure people feel cared for.
My life has changed so much since I was diagnosed
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 and finished active treatment (other than hormone therapy) in 2015. Since then, a lot has happened!
I got married, I got a pooch called Norma, and I kayaked with orcas in the wild while on honeymoon in Canada - something I would often dream about doing when I was going through treatment. I also had a slight change in career.
At the end of 2016, I founded littlelifts: a charity supporting people affected by breast cancer.
We’re on a mission to support people with a diagnosis by offering a littlelifts box during their chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment. Each box contains a collection of items that will hopefully provide practical support and comfort during treatment.
One of the ways we support people with breast cancer is by working directly with hospitals in East Anglia, where boxes are given out to patients during treatment planning or review meetings with their oncology, radiotherapy or breast care teams.
I want everyone who receives a box to feel supported, and for the box to let them know that they’re not alone.
People in treatment can get a free littlelifts box
Breast cancer doesn’t stop during COVID-19 and, despite changes to the ways we work, we have continued to provide littlelifts boxes to our hospital partnerships. We now work directly with six hospitals and, in October 2020, we also extended our support to include radiotherapy patients.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have received a surge in requests from breast cancer patients outside Norfolk and Suffolk enquiring about a littlelifts box, so we launched The little Kindness Fund.
The little Kindness Fund is a discretionary fund for people undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment for primary or secondary breast cancer living in England and Wales. The fund enables eligible applicants to receive a littlelifts box, free of charge, to support their physical and emotional wellbeing through their cancer treatment.
The boxes provide both practical and emotional support
We understand that every person’s experience of breast cancer treatment is different, which is why littlelifts boxes are full of items carefully selected to provide people with practical support as well as mood-boosting goodies to promote emotional wellbeing; but it isn’t just what’s inside the box that provides support. We really love getting feedback and box recipients tell us that the sense of solidarity and kindness they experience is equally valuable – and right now, kindness matters.
Our boxes are full of carefully-curated items (with the planet in mind), all chosen to help relieve side effects such as:
- A water bottle, herbal tea and cordial, because it is important to keep hydrated during treatment.
- Natural moisturiser to calm sensitive skin.
- Luxurious organic chocolates because everyone deserves a treat during treatment.
- A heated eye mask to aid sleep and relaxation.
- Lolly recipe cards and moulds to help with lack of taste and a sore mouth which can be caused by chemotherapy.
- A notebook and pen, which are useful to note down thoughts and questions to ask the medical team.
People who have received a littlelifts box say that it helps them feel more prepared for treatment and comforted knowing that someone understands what they are going through.
One thing that really surprised me was hearing that people had used the littlelifts boxes to explain to their children what they were going through. When I started littlelifts I didn’t expect the boxes to have such a big impact on the loved ones of someone going through treatment.
Self-care is so important
Since my cancer diagnosis, I have paid closer attention to my self-care routine. I always start my day doing something enjoyable, whether that’s a walk with the dog, a workout or a cuppa in bed. That way, I always start my day with a positive mindset.
Plus, I never take my phone to bed – getting a good night’s sleep is so important!
At the start of my treatment, I wish I had known not to be hard on myself when I didn’t have the energy to do certain things. It is so important to be kind to yourself.
I’d tell anyone going through treatment that there will be good days as well as bad days. You just have to take it steady and ask for help and support when you need it.
To support Oa’s work or request a care box for yourself, visit the littlelifts website.
If you are about to have treatment and are not sure what to expect, we have plenty of information and support available.