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March 25, 2021

Catherine’s Story: Living with Breast Cancer through a pandemic

Catherine's Story

Catherine Lincoln was diagnosed with Breast Cancer during the Coronavirus pandemic in May 2020.

Catherine had felt a lump in her breast that appeared very suddenly. She booked an appointment with her GP who then made an emergency referral to the hospital. Catherine was then scanned for Breast Cancer. The mammogram showed cancer had spread to the lymph nodes in her armpit.

When asked how Catherine felt about the initial diagnosis, she said: “Absolute terror. At that point, I didn’t know anyone who had survived cancer. I was desperately worried about my family. I initially cried lots because I worried about not being with my children as they grew up. I was concerned about what to do about my job. I was also quite angry because I had always been healthy and careful about diet and exercise. It came out as a rage about the unfairness of life!”

Catherine was not alone in these feelings. Her husband and children were deeply worried for her along with Catherine’s sister and parents, who live far away, with her sister in London and parents in France. It was a very lonely and isolating time for her.

Catherine only saw her sister and parents once last year, with them visiting in the garden and Catherine sitting inside her kitchen. Not being able to see family during an exceptionally worrying time, not knowing whether the cancer would worsen, made the process a lonely one for Catherine.

She said: “I wasn’t able to see any friends either. Thank goodness for Facetime and Zoom! When the children went back to school in September I had to isolate myself from them in the run up to my surgery. We decided as a family that it would be better that way than them continuing to stay off school. The risk of Covid also made it very worrying every time I went out for a walk or to an appointment at the Doctor; I felt increasingly at risk.”

Big C has played a key element in Catherine feeling less alone. Sam Glee, Big C’s Senior Cancer Information Clinical Nurse Specialist, called Catherine every week to answer her questions and concerns.

Catherine said: “She talked me through every stage of the treatment and calmed my anxieties in the most wonderful way. She made it clear that there was no question or fear too silly or embarrassing to ask. I could never have done it without her. They explained all the benefits very clearly so I knew exactly what I could claim and how. Then when I went in for my surgery I was given a leaflet about exercise. Simon [Gooch, Big C’s Health Education Officer] organised for me to join a mindfulness yoga group. It was amazing, Nikki was a fantastic teacher! Also, I received a beautiful hamper in the hospital full of carefully thought through items as well as little care packages delivered to my door. The best was the 5kg bag of pasta during the lockdown last year!”

A hard year for many especially in Catherine’s position, she expressed her gratitude for Big C, wishing only that the Centres had been able to open so she could see people in person.

Big C hope to welcome service users back to centres on an appointment based system in late June to early July, dependent on government guidance.

To help Big C continue to support local people in Norfolk and Waveney living with cancer and their families click the donate button below. With no contribution too small, every pound can make a real difference.

Alternatively you can set up a fundraiser or enter one of our upcoming events to raise funds for us here.

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