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Bex found it difficult to get through treatment alone due to COVID-19 restrictions, and struggled even more when that treatment ended. To get her back on track, she planned a party with a friend she made during chemotherapy.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer last Christmas. I was 36 and had two little children, and I’d never heard of anyone else getting diagnosed so young. When I went on Breast Cancer Now’s website, however, I realised – unfortunately – that it actually wasn’t that unusual. I wasn’t the only one in the world dealing with this.
Treatment began with chemotherapy in January, and it was during my first session that I met my friend, Sarah.
Because this was during the national lockdown, neither of us had anybody with us for treatment, so we ended up chatting. It turned out we had loads in common, and we ended up being really good support for one another. Obviously I had friends and family looking out for me, too, but Sarah knew how I felt, and I knew how she felt.
When you’re in active treatment, you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster and everyone’s on it with you. It’s scary, you don’t want to be on it, and you can’t get off – but you’re not on your own. When treatment ends, though, you’re just left by yourself.
A lot of people had said it would be like that, and I didn’t understand it at the time. Now, I do.
I’m a paediatric nurse, and I’ve looked after children who have cancer for about 10 years or so. But when it’s a child who’s sick, there’s always a team effort to help them – their parents, or perhaps their grandparents or a sibling. That’s how I’d always seen it happen. But because of when I was diagnosed, I couldn’t have that.
There was a Maggie’s centre near my hospital, but it was closed (again due to COVID-19), so I didn’t have that to fall back on. I just felt so low, mentally. I was alive, but I wasn’t really living. I found myself thinking, ‘How do I get out of this place? How do I move forward?’.
Fortunately, I had Sarah, and we’d made a few other friends during treatment. We realised we wanted to do something to get us out of that negative slump, something to focus on and look forward to.
So then we thought, why not throw a party?
We called our event the ‘Boob Ball’ and scheduled it for 22 January – exactly a year on from the day Sarah and I met.
We wanted it to be an opportunity to gather all our loved ones and say, ‘We know you couldn’t physically be with us during treatment, but you were there for us. We appreciated all your food parcels, your cards, your flowers, your texts and phone calls’.
We wanted it to be a thank you, but also a sort of launch party for the new versions of ourselves.
Our planning started in the autumn, at which point January felt a long way off. Then, when Omicron started happening at the end of 2021, we worried we might have to cancel. We prepared ourselves to postpone, thinking we could just move it to the summer.
But then I realised how important it was to have the Boob Ball on the day I started treatment. It was a way for me to close that chapter of my life. So, we stuck to our plans and hoped for the best.
We sold all the tickets within a couple of weeks. 170 people – 170 of our friends and family – came along! Even when a few people had to drop out on the day due to positive lateral flow tests, we still managed to fill their seats.
The original plan was never about fundraising, and I was very honest about that from the beginning. The event was intended to be a celebration that we were alive, that we had got through treatment. We said that if we raised £500 in the process, that would be great.
We raised money first of all through selling the tickets, but we also had a raffle and an auction. I wrote to lots of local places and shops asking for prizes, and we had some brilliant friends donate some things too. My brother-in-law has a pilot’s licence, so we auctioned off a little plane trip with him. Another friend has a little holiday house in Wales, so she offered that for a weekend away.
We also had a JustGiving page, and the local paper actually put out an article on us. Random people we’d never met ended up giving us money through that, which was amazing. So many people are happy to support these things.
By the end of the event, we’d raised about £19,500.
The amount we raised and the event as a whole was just brilliant. Everyone loved it. I did, Sarah did, our little girls did. And it was all for a good cause.
If you’d gone back to the day I began chemotherapy and told me that, in a year’s time, I’d be standing there with Sarah in a pink dress having a fabulous party, I wouldn’t have believed it. I was so lost then, I didn’t know how I’d get through it. I had no idea what was on the other side.
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