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Interview 06

Age at interview: 68
Age at diagnosis: 61
Brief Outline: She is eight years past a diagnosis of breast cancer. She received a mastectomy and five years of treatment with tamoxifen. She received counselling to help her through cancer and depression, but now feels that cancer is behind her.
Background: She volunteers for a local cancer charity that helped her through her cancer. She is widowed. Ethnic Background: White British.

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The interviewee is 8 years post-diagnosis from breast cancer. She had a mastectomy, which was very upsetting at the time. She needed to talk to someone about how she felt about her body, but that support was not offered from the hospital. She received a lot of support and one-on-one counselling from a local cancer centre and now volunteers for them on a fundraising basis so that people could have the same help that she had. She had depression prior to cancer, and just needed someone to talk to. Nowadays, she does not have any negative feelings about the mastectomy, and has accepted what happened. 
 
She tried reiki, which was transformational and helped her refocus following cancer, and now she self-practices every day in the morning after doing a reiki course. She also found that it was good to go to the cancer support centre and meet other people who were all very kind, and who had been through the same experience. The cancer care centre closed through lack of funding, but core members of the team set up a charity which works with terminally ill patients in their own homes. 
 
She also took tamoxifen for five years, which caused night sweats at the time, but she does not have any long-term effects from the treatment. Her breast surgery involved removing some of the lymph glands in her right arm so she needs to take care with physical tasks such as gardening and lifting heavy bags. 
 
Although cancer and the mastectomy was a very difficult thing to come to terms with at the time, she has found that things get better over time, which she didn’t expect. Many things have gone back to normal, and she is happy that other people don’t see her as someone who’s had cancer.
 
Her message to other people is to hang in there and that things do get better. 
 
 

After her breast cancer 8 years ago she had tried to make the most of each day but has since slid...

After her breast cancer 8 years ago she had tried to make the most of each day but has since slid...

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Oh, no, I think I should be saying that I’m trying to make every day count, and there was that feeling early on but, being human, I’ve slid back into old routines and comfortable feelings that I never thought I would. But in a way I’m grateful for that. I didn’t think that would ever happen. I’ve become as sloppy as the next person.
 
Do you think that having had cancer has in any way changed your views on life at all?
 
Well, it’s bound to. It should have. I’m just very grateful to have survived this far, and you should really make the most of the present because you just don’t know what’s around the corner, but being human we don’t do that. We let things slide and we just go back to the same old habits, but there’s a part of you that’s still aware. 

 

 

Having had breast cancer she is now more empathetic towards other people who are having...

Having had breast cancer she is now more empathetic towards other people who are having...

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 So in a way, something positive that’s come out of it.

 
Very. Very, very positive. Very positive in the way that I relate to people who have had any kind of great difficulty in their life. I feel a great feeling for them without being sloppy about it. I’m very much more aware of other people’s difficulties. I hope I’m helping somebody somewhere along the line but that’s how I feel about it. 
 
 

She is grateful for the new relationships she has developed with people she met through her...

She is grateful for the new relationships she has developed with people she met through her...

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 I’m so grateful for having met the people that I’ve met and are involved with and the team that was at the [cancer support centre]. I’m now involved with them in a supportive kind of way, that I think it’s brought that benefit. I can’t say I wouldn’t have missed it. I would have hoped that we would have all met in some other way, but it’s been very important in shaping the rest of my life in a good way. It’s brought benefits, to be quite honest, that might not have come any other way. I don’t know about that, but I’m so grateful for how things have turned out. I’ve made some great relationships and met some life-giving people, that I can only be grateful for it.

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