Claire visits us at our Norwich Centre as she undergoes her treatment for Breast Cancer. Here she shares her story, and how the Big C team help support her through her journey…
The signs weren’t obvious to Claire at first; her mammogram was clear, her health was generally good. Then one day she noticed she had become quite clumsy, soon after, her breast became sore. Although she thought something was amiss, she couldn’t get an appointment with her GP. Instead she saw a nurse who examined her and administered some cream to treat the soreness. Within a couple of weeks a massive lump appeared and seemed to grow in size quite rapidly.
She popped into the pharmacist who advised that she needed to see her doctor as soon as possible. However, that week Claire was flying to Italy for a short break and so she decided to go ahead with the trip, during which, she was very tired and not her usual self.
When she returned from Italy, on an impulse attended her local walk-in centre, and she was glad that she did. The staff referred her to hospital for a next day appointment with a suspected abscess. She saw a surgeon and doctor who referred her to the breast clinic.
Claire told us: “The staff were very on the ball, I literally had a scan and some tests and then all that was left was to wait, which of course is the hardest part, it’s like living in purgatory.”
Shortly after, Claire was diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer. She was told she would have a treatment plan of chemotherapy, a mastectomy, some more chemotherapy and then radiotherapy.
“A few years ago, if you received a cancer diagnosis, people would sometimes ask the doctor: ‘How long have I got?’ but now it’s ‘What is my treatment plan?’. We’ve come a very long way. ”
She was also told she would probably feel very sick throughout her treatment. However, Claire’s positive outlook stood her in good stead:
“Yes, it was challenging, and I’ve been having treatment for almost year now, but I’m through it. The fact I love life and have wonderful friends who helped me through it has really helped. Although it’s a negative thing, cancer, there is some positives you can take from an experience like this.”
“As a result of my diagnosis, I went on a learning quest. I’ve read up about the Big Bang, black holes, Einstein, it’s been fascinating. I’ve found a new lease of life. Learning about things I hadn’t considered before. I’ve broadened my horizons,.”
Big C was also a huge support for Claire during almost 11 months of intensive treatment and a month spent in hospital with pneumonia.
“Although my friends and those closest to me have been fantastic, a lot of people don’t know what to say, they avoid contact because they don’t think they can handle the conversation. Big C staff were absolutely wonderful, they are all such lovely and friendly people. It also really helped me chatting to other people and hearing about their journeys. Everybody is different but relating to others, talking about the side effects, was good for me. So helpful in fact.”
“Big C also offer other lovely things such as the “Look Good Feel Better” service. Where I got to meet up with other fantastic ladies to try make-up on – that was wonderful. There are also support groups which I found very helpful.”
Claire also benefited from other Big C free services including reflexology:
“The reflexology really soothed me, it was so relaxing in between appointments. After which I’d have a cup of tea and I’d wait there, in Big C’s lovely environment instead of being in hospital. By the time I was ready for my next hospital appointment, I was feeling much more relaxed after resetting at Big C.”
Claire finished radiotherapy and the end of her treatment plan only last week. She has responded very well to the treatment and she continues to have a positive mind-set.
“I have plans; it’s good to have plans. You’re focusing on the future and looking forward and not dwelling. Cancer has no boundaries, young, old, rich, poor, it doesn’t matter. It can suddenly spring on you, like it did me.”
Before her diagnosis, Claire Capes used to work with looked-after 16 to 18 year olds and now after living through cancer, she hopes to continue with similar work: “Now, my goal is to foster teenagers. I’m looking forward to that.”
“You will have dark days, of course, but you have to say, don’t let this steal my joy. Life is actually beautiful. I do believe that the positive thoughts, plans and aspirations boost you up. Above all, I can’t praise Big C and NHS staff enough, all of them are fantastic, all of them simply amazing. My GP is helpful and always smiling, which in turn makes me smile. The Big C Centre is so helpful with advice, so I always knew where to go for support. ”