With her family in the Caribbean and her boyfriend Jez living in Cornwall, Rocio found that her diagnosis affected her relationships with friends. ‘My friends started to disappear – I think they were possibly a bit scared. I also think I tried to look like I was dealing with it all. But the truth is I was so vulnerable and so alone at times, that any support that came to me was amazing.’
Rocio was directed to the Macmillan centre at the hospital, which is where she met Alison, a Macmillan information and support manager. ‘Alison let me cry and sob, and then she stopped me and we went back to the beginning. She got me to talk through my fears, then deconstructed them and made them more digestible.’
As well as regular chats with Alison at the centre, Rocio was put in touch with Tracey, a Macmillan benefits adviser. Tracey helped Rocio apply for benefits and for a Macmillan grant so that she could visit Jez in Cornwall. ‘Because of the support from Macmillan, I don’t feel lonely – even though in some areas of my life I am quite alone.
‘It was almost like I was on this train journey before I was diagnosed, and it wasn’t brilliant because of my housing situation. But then suddenly I was on a detour, and on a completely new journey that I had no control over. That’s the really scary part.’
Rocio says Alison and Tracey have helped her stay upbeat, encouraging her to try wearing a wig and start a textiles course. ‘I think feeling positive helps, and that’s what Macmillan gives you. If you’re respected and you’re being told that you’re doing well or you look good, or that you can get support financially or over the phone – that’s a lifeline.’