Christine, from Wales, describes why volunteering means so much to her.
I’ll never forgot the day of my diagnosis
I was diagnosed in December 2015 when I was 59. I'll never forget it. I found a lump on holiday, came back and never imagined it was breast cancer. I was shocked.
I went through all the tests over the Christmas holidays. I remember there was a breast care nurse who told me not to worry, and handed me a Breast Cancer Care pack. She said very clearly, ‘Listen to me. This is your cancer, not anyone else’s. It will be different to other people’s. Don’t go googling anything. Just stick to this pack.’
So I took the pack, but at that point I didn’t look at anything at all, from the pack or the internet. After Christmas I opened up the information pack and found it so straight forward. It was written in a language I could understand, it wasn’t scary.
I realised I needed support for my mental health
I went back to work and then started chemotherapy and had my treatment. At that point I heard about the Moving Forward course. I wasn’t sure what I might get from it, but I thought I’d give it a go. From that moment onwards I thought, ‘wow, Breast Cancer Care is so supportive’. Moving Forward helped me realise that I needed counselling, which was the best thing that could have happened. Most people don’t realise there’s a mental health impact, but the course helped me to understand how I was feeling and how I could find support.
I was scared of lymphoedema
My biggest fear was getting lymphoedema. I didn't know anything about it until the day before my mastectomy, it sounded terrifying. My world turned upside-down when I was diagnosed with lymphoedema. I had no idea how to manage it, but I learnt so much on the Moving Forward course. I ended up training to volunteer at the courses and now I also give talks at my hospital’s lymphoedema clinic. By giving the talks, I'm up to date with research and tips, which helps me as well as the people I speak to, so I can get on with life now. I feel in control.
I see the relief on people’s face when I say I have lymphoedema. There’s nothing better than meeting someone who is living well with a condition that you’re scared of. People tell horror stories of cancer in general, so it’s great to put people at ease by talking to them about my own experience and where I am now.
I feel part of very special family at the courses, because we’ve all had breast cancer. You need to have had it to understand what it means. I’ve realised I can help other women diagnosed by showing them that there is life beyond breast cancer.
The Show brought me out of my bubble
I lived in a bubble through breast cancer. Someone took over my body, my treatment, my thoughts. Walking down the catwalk as a model at Breast Cancer Care’s Show London was fabulous. It brought me out of that bubble.
It was so thought-provoking to meet the other models. It made me feel normal, human and capable.
I became a different person when I was diagnosed – the Christine before, a mum and employee, and then the Christine with breast cancer. It’s only after that I realised how much I changed. Looking back, it’s made me more aware of other people, I’m more tolerant.
I’ve joined an enormous family by volunteering
I can’t tell you how much I’ve got back from volunteering. It feels like being part of a big family at Breast Cancer Care. It’s not an organisation, it’s a family. And now it’s Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now, the family is even bigger.
If you’re thinking about volunteering, have a look around for the right kind of thing for you. I started off by helping out at the Pink Ribbon Walks, which were fantastic. They have such an incredible atmosphere, and I met so many lovely people. I’m about to start volunteering for Tickled Pink too.
The rewards of volunteering are marvelous, not just for the people you’re supporting but for yourself.
Join our volunteering family and make a difference for anyone affected by breast cancer.