I recently met up with Stephanie Harrison, Sevenoaks resident and Breast Cancer Care Community Fundraiser and Kent Team Leader, to speak about her journey to recovery following her breast cancer diagnosis. We spoke about some of the challenges she faced and of the importance of asking for help to aid recovery.
How long did your treatment last?
Following my lumpectomy, I received three weeks of radiotherapy and was prescribed Tamoxifen, which is a type of hormone therapy used to treat breast cancer, for five years.
What were the main side effects and how did that affect you day to day?
I suffered many side effects during my treatment. The first obvious one for me was cramp. This wasn’t cramp as we know it; it was severe and I even suffered it in the back of my head. This would at times mean driving was difficult, if not impossible, for me.
Bad sweats were very distressing and would come on intermittently. It felt like the heat started in your feet and worked its way up to your head. It felt like a furnace on your face.
Sleeplessness was a major problem. For nearly a year I only had 2-3 hours sleep a night. This led to irritability, brain fog and constant tiredness. Sleeping during the day was a constant for me.
What help or support did you have?
At the time, I was living alone but I have two sisters who live in Bromley so they were the first ones who were there to help. Once home and unable to work I used to walk to the supermarket, sometimes I would have to go twice a day as it was too uncomfortable to carry anything too heavy. Eventually my friends realised I was doing this and took me shopping once a week for a big shop and whenever I needed anything heavy.
With regards to my emotional support, that was supplied by family and Breast Cancer Care.
Would you have used Close to Hand had it been available during your treatment?
I would definitely have used a service like Close to Hand had I known about them.
Although my sisters live relatively close by, they are not local and I often struggled with the day to day things at the beginning of my recovery. Having someone local other than friends that I could call upon who could help with practical things around the home like pushing the hoover around, or doing the heavy lifting, would have been a lifeline for me.
I think having someone who could have done little bits of shopping etc would have been great, just as and when I needed it or when I was having a particularly bad day. Being right-handed I was able to function a bit easier as it was my left side that was affected. However, had it been the right side I think it would have been much harder and possibly more help would have been needed.
If you, or someone you know, is recovering from surgery or a long-term illness and could do with a helping hand whilst they recover, register now to connect to a local Home Helper.
If you, or someone you know, is living with breast cancer please contact www.breastcancercare.org for a wealth of information, advice and support.