For Ashley, being diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2011 wasn’t the first time he’d received news like this.
‘I’d already been through cancer some 20-odd years ago and had been very well since, so it was a shock,’ says Ashley. ‘I felt very lonely as I made my way out of the hospital. I was in floods of tears, barely able to support myself.’ As he tried to work out how to tell his wife Lara and young son Rowan, he says his ‘world fell apart’. He was also worried about telling his dad and brother as his mum had died from cancer in 2006. Ashley says: ‘I felt guilty to have to tell them they were going to have to go through it all again.’
Ashley’s diagnosis also put a strain on his relationships – particularly his marriage. ‘We drifted further and further apart. Lara wanted some support, so she went to see the GP and they recommended Macmillan.
‘In the next couple of days a Macmillan nurse came round,’ says Ashley. ‘The nurse asked me if we were getting psychological support and within the space of a week Marilyn arrived.’ As a Macmillan clinical psychologist, Marilyn was there for Ashley and Lara – to help them talk through their feelings and understand their situation better. Ashley says: ‘She was able to help me see a clear way forward and approach things in small steps. It helped me understand that some of the ways I was feeling weren’t wrong, and that I was allowed to feel like that from time to time. I think that the help Marilyn gave us was fundamental in helping us keep together through our difficult times.’
As a self-employed graphic designer, money was also a concern for Ashley. ‘The financial implications were huge. My work really suffered at the time – I wasn’t able to work at all for three months.
‘Macmillan gave me a £400 grant, which I used for train fares to London and back for treatment, and we got advice on benefits I was entitled to. That extra income was a massive help,’ says Ashley.
Looking back, Ashley says: ‘Without Macmillan, it would have been too difficult emotionally. There would’ve been no money coming in, the emotional stress would’ve been much higher – it would have been total chaos. I’ve been very lucky to benefit from Macmillan’s support.’
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