Macmillan got involved with my cancer journey right at the point of diagnosis. I met my Macmillan nurse, Maggie, after I’d been diagnosed. She came here to our house and she talked me through all the different practical elements, the support that we could have as a family, and she talked about books that we could buy to help our children understand what cancer was and what was happening to mummy. She helped me apply for a blue badge so that, when I went to hospital for my chemotherapy, after having my back operation, I wouldn’t have to worry about parking.
Maggie was the person I could talk to when I felt I couldn’t turn to my husband or my friends. She understood what it was like to be facing chemo. One of the most emotional times for me was losing my hair – and it wasn't something I could talk to my friends about. My hair started falling out two weeks after my first chemo session, and it went everywhere. It was on my pillow, it was everywhere in the shower. It was really hard to cope with. It made me feel angry and upset. My daughters couldn’t recognise me as their mum anymore. Not only was cancer threatening my life, it was changing my appearance so my daughters couldn’t recognise me as their mum anymore.
My position with Anthony and the girls was, it’s okay, it’s only hair, it will grow back. But my position with Maggie was …I was absolutely devastated. I could cry with her and talk to her about how it affected me as a woman. And letting these emotions out with Maggie meant that I could support my husband and my children better. I really felt I needed to be strong for them so they could be strong for me.
If we didn’t have Maggie’s support, I don’t know how we would have coped as a family. We've got a strong network of friends who were rallying around us and being there for us as a family, but nobody knew what it was like to have cancer. Maggie knew. She was an expert. She knew everything about cancer and there wasn't a single question that we asked that she wasn't able to help us with. And at the time, questions were all we had.
I was really surprised to find that the Macmillan website gave you access to support and community forums, where you could talk to other people who were suffering from cancer and going through similar experiences. Finding the forums was really helpful to me, especially when I was in hospital. I was able to instantly chat with other people and talk about the fact that I was in hospital again, which round of chemotherapy it was, what symptoms I had, and how I was coping. It was really helpful to know that there were other people who were going through the same symptoms, and to get advice and support on how to handle those symptoms.