Oa Hackett felt unprepared for chemotherapy but was helped by the kindness of her family and friends. Their phenomenal support inspired her to start littlelifts, a charity providing women with a box of support at the start of their treatment.
My first appointment lasted an eternity
In May 2014, I was in Cornwall for my 28th birthday. I had taken a shower after a long bike ride, which is when I found a lump on my breast.
My husband, Greg, told me that I should get it checked out when we got home. I didn’t do anything about it for a while. I even cancelled my first appointment. When I finally went to the doctors in July, I was referred to a breast clinic.
I went to my appointment on my lunch break. My mum asked if she should come, but I told her I would be fine.
On 28th July, two months after I had first spotted my lump, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Until you hear the words ‘you have breast cancer’ you don’t really process what’s happening. It didn’t feel real.
I was naïve about breast cancer
Luckily, I had brought my family with me. My mum was brilliant and had brought her notebook and pen. She was asking all the questions that I couldn’t think of.
I was naïve to think that breast cancer couldn’t affect me because I was only 28 years old. I was lucky that my cancer hadn’t spread beyond my lymph nodes, but I still went through six rounds of chemotherapy, surgery and 15 sessions of radiotherapy.
I did my research before I started treatment and found information on websites like Breast Cancer Now. Information is helpful, but nothing prepares for what’s going to happen until you’re in it.
One of the most challenging moments for me was my chemotherapy information session. My consultant reeled off a long list of side effects for the treatment that I had to consent to. At the time, I felt really well and I was worried that was going to change. I just thought, I’m going to be really ill.
littlelifts was inspired by my family and friends
Chemotherapy was tough, but manageable because of the amazing gifts that my friends and family got me. They boosted my mood and helped me deal with some of the tougher side effects, like sore mouth and loss of taste.
I felt lucky to have the support from them. It made me think about how scared I was in that first information session for what was about to come, and how much I would have valued feeling more prepared for my treatment.
That’s what inspired the littlelift boxes – they're a collection of items to provide comfort to women who are facing chemotherapy. I want every woman to receive one of our boxes to feel supported, and for the box to let them know that they’re not alone.
Oa with gifts she recieved from her family and friends before treatment.
We help women feel prepared for treatment
Once I had the idea and went back to work full time, I decided to change my hours so that I could dedicate one day a week to littlelifts. However, everything quickly snowballed once I shared my idea with my local hospital, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. We got incredible feedback from them, and our first littlelifts box went out in November 2017.
We didn’t think we’d hear back about the boxes for at least six months – boxes aren’t the first thing on someone's mind during treatment! But we heard back within weeks. We have feedback forms in the boxes and they just kept coming through.
Women who received a box said that it helped them feel more prepared for chemotherapy and that they were comforted knowing that someone had been there before. One thing that really surprised me was hearing that women had used the boxes to explain to their children what they were going through. I never thought about the impact the boxes could have on the loved ones of someone going through treatment.
We’ve achieved so much in 18 months
In 18 months, littelifts has achieved what we thought would take us five years. Based on the feedback we’ve received from hospitals, we’ve started offering littlelifts boxes to women with secondary breast cancer.
We’re hoping to be able to expand beyond Norfolk and Suffolk hospitals. One way we’re doing this is with the launch of our online shop. Anyone can go online and buy one of our boxes for women going through chemotherapy. We’ve already sent orders to Australia, South Africa and Japan – I hope that we continue to reach as many women as possible.
Treatment is tough, but you’ll get through it
Someone told me before I started treatment that it would be tough, but I would be able to get through it.
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.
Our information and support pages can help you cope with going through breast cancer treatment.