Back in July 2016 I had the words said to me that no one ever wants to hear… ‘I’m sorry Beverley but it's cancer.’ I cannot start to tell you what hearing those words does to you, but one thing it does do is change your life forever.
18 months it took me to be able to say the word cancer, but thankfully I am now fit and well and on the road to recovery.
I found a routine survey that was sent to me, as I thought, from the hospital. I was bored one afternoon and I had nothing to watch on the TV, so I completed the survey. I thought that it would pass an hour or so, but it was going to be a complete waste of time. We all fill surveys in and nothing comes of them, so I just posted it off.
I was really shocked and surprised when, a few weeks later, I was invited to take part in a workshop with Breast Cancer Now, who wanted to understand more about my experiences. Someone had listened to me and my views – wow, what a result!
After going along to the workshop, I came home feeling very upbeat and keen to get involved.
I decided to become a Patient Representative because I wanted to make a difference for other patients. While I will be ever grateful to the NHS, there are things on my journey that could have been made better and easier for someone else.
I felt that breast cancer had stolen much of my confidence and outgoing nature, so I saw the opportunity to get involved with Breast Cancer Now's Service Pledge as a chance to do something that felt important.
I was struggling with coming to terms with my cancer; I felt upset, I lacked confidence and was so emotional that I wondered how my life could ever be normal again. Breast Cancer Now made me feel strong. It was a good process. I realised that I could make things happen. Receiving cancer treatment leaves you feeling disempowered, but I realised I could change that.
Getting stuck in and reviewing the data from the surveys was really interesting. Prioritising areas of concern to take to the Improvement Goal Meeting was an eye opener and important to get right as we were dealing with people's experiences of breast cancer.
Knowing that my views will be taken on board, and that change will happen as a result of having been a Patient Representative makes me very proud.
I know from speaking to key hospital staff members that changes have already taken place and the improvements are still ongoing. I have been overwhelmed by the reaction from staff at Pinderfields who are trying hard to make improvements. I saw this for myself after having been invited back to the hospital last week for a catch up with Macmillan Nurses at the Breast clinic.
Making things better or easier for people experiencing breast cancer is crucial. Unless you've been that person with cancer you'll never start to understand what it’s like. If I can make it better for three or four people, then my job is done.
Now having come out of the other side of treatment, I want to talk about my cancer journey, so that improvements can be made which will benefit others. I wouldn’t wish cancer on my worst enemy. It's changed my life forever, but it has made me reassess my priorities.
To find out more about the Service Pledge and being a Patient Advocate, take a look at our Service Pledge page.