Jen, our Lockdown Legend!
October 30, 2020
Jen, 38, was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2019 and received her chemotherapy treatment throughout the lockdown period. To help manage the emotional side effects of her treatment, she accessed telephone counselling at Cavendish Cancer Care. She later took part in the 5 x 5 Challenge and raised £2,744 in support of Cavendish services.
“I saw it as an opportunity to do all the healing all at once, and focus completely on my health during the quieter time of lockdown. It became a legitimate reason to press pause on work and sort out life’s complications.”
When Jen was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2019, she was coming up to her 38th birthday. “I decided to start regularly checking my breasts and to be generally more aware of my health. After checking and not finding anything, I went for a sports massage. The following Tuesday, I found a lump on my breast. I went to the GP and got fast-tracked to have an ultra-sound. I thought it was going to be a cyst.”
“I went to Hong Kong on holiday. When I came back, I was diagnosed with grade 3 breast cancer. I was told that 2020 would be my recovery time, completely.”
For Jen, the experience of lockdown came with the added emotional turmoil of a cancer diagnosis. Before lockdown restrictions were introduced across the UK, she received a lumpectomy, underwent IVF treatment, and moved house. Then, as lockdown saw a ban placed on all unnecessary social contact, Jen began her chemotherapy treatment.
“My first thought was: lockdown is going to keep me safe. I knew I couldn’t put myself under any risk at all. My only worry at that time was food. How am I going to take care of myself? I had recently moved house, so I didn’t know the area or my neighbours very well. OK, I’ve got to do this myself. I pre-prepped all of my meals and got organised.”
Jen’s friends and new neighbours rallied around her to offer support as she was shielding at home, bringing her essentials and food when she needed it. But she also had to contend with the debilitating side effects of the chemotherapy drugs and treatment. “Following chemotherapy, I would sleep for 3 days, then the steroids would bring on 2 days of depression and low mood. I didn’t expect the mental challenge to be as big as the physical challenge. It was draining.”
Jen found out about Cavendish Cancer Care from her breast cancer clinical nurse, and she was able to access telephone counselling throughout lockdown. She received 4 free sessions with Emily, and chose to pay to continue accessing Emily’s support thereafter, scheduling the therapy to combat the side effects of her treatment.
“I felt like it was getting easier. I was physically weaker, but mentally I was stronger. I’d learned to listen to my body really well, and able to understand and manage the treatment. I became more attuned to my reaction towards it.”
Jen had always enjoyed being active and enjoying the great outdoors. When she saw the 5 x 5 Challenge advertised on social media, she knew that it would be the perfect way to stretch her legs whilst raising money for Cavendish Cancer Care. For her challenge, she ran 5 5ks in 8 days in the Peak District and in Graves Park. Her friends joined her on her runs, supporting her with running playlists, dance challenges and even ran alongside her in fancy dress! “The 5 x 5 Challenge was a way to celebrate and mark the end of chemo, and it was a way to bring together all those people who supported me to do something really positive for the benefit of the Centre. It’s so valuable for people. It was on my radar to do something at some point and I knew that as long as I could be active, I’d be fine.”
“It was like me reconnecting with my old self. Chemotherapy had me quite disconnected with my body, so many injections and drugs to take. By doing the runs it reconnected me with my own physicality. I didn’t expect to raise so much. My target was £250 and I raised £2,744!”