The difficult thing is coming to terms with the fear of it coming back. That’s where Cavendish can help.
Louise worked for Cavendish for 8 years as a therapist, offering Reiki and reflexology. In 2012 she was diagnosed with bladder cancer and became a client of the centre herself. She has two grown up children.
In December 2012 I was told I had a bladder tumour. Like a lot of people, I was completely shocked. Perhaps more so because of my job. I thought I can’t have a tumour, I go to work with people with cancer. Now I’m on the other side of the fence.
I have a healthy lifestyle. I don’t smoke or drink and I exercise. My Dad died of cancer but I never thought about it affecting me. I felt well, I didn’t feel ill – a lot of patients say that – just a little tired.
I was always the one who looked after others.
When you get a diagnosis you suddenly feel much more small and fragile. You feel quite childlike in the face of something so large. But you don’t want to express that vulnerability to those you’ve always been strong for.
My biggest fears were about family members who depend on me. I didn’t want them to have to look after me. When you’re the person who looks after everyone else it’s really hard to go and get help.
I came to the Centre for an assessment – this time as a client
Following my chemotherapy I spent most of the time laying on the settee with a blanket. I had an assessment with Mandy at the Centre then chose to have spiritual healing with a Cavendish therapist who I’d not met before.
Spiritual healing is a form of hands-on healing – not based on religion as the name suggests – where the therapist offers a guided visualisation during the session. You imagine yourself in a peaceful place, there’s calm music and your therapists puts their hands on you and helps you ‘reconnect’ with yourself because you’re in a slight panic.
The sessions were an oasis of peace, heaven. I really looked forward to them. You can choose to talk to your therapist or be really quiet. I had four sessions with the healer and then a review with the assessor to see if it had helped and how. I told her it had really made a difference, I felt much stronger. I was much less anxious and ready to come back to work. It had made me realise I was working too hard and I needed to look after myself, spend more time walking and seeing my family – so I closed my private practice and now I’m not working in the evenings.
Being diagnosed with bladder cancer is embarrassing – it affects the things you do every day.
The thing about talking to Cavendish is that it gives you a chance to talk about the embarrassing cancers – bowel, bladder and prostate – you can talk about the nitty gritty you don’t want to talk about it with people you know. That’s a big relief.
What if Cavendish hadn’t been here?
Emotionally I wouldn’t have been able to cope as well, it was a real lifeline. I have really good friends who I can talk to, but when you come to Cavendish you can say the things you can’t say to people who love you. For example, I had very mixed emotions, and my friends and family found it hard to accept that I’m not afraid of dying. They really struggled to talk about it, they were very panicky, so I didn’t want to talk about the details because it made them panic more.
With my therapist I could say some very negative things that I wouldn’t have said at home. People expect you to ‘fight’ cancer. But if you see it as a battle and the cancer wins, it makes it feel like it’s your fault and I didn’t want that feeling.
Having cancer is like playing hide and seek, you never know when it will pop up again. Not knowing for the rest of your life is a big thing. Even though it’s very treatable there’s a high recurrence with this type of cancer, so it makes you rethink your whole life.
It’s made me much more understanding of people’s fears when I’m giving them a treatment.
I now appreciate how uncertain people feel, even when they’ve got a good outcome. It’s made me more sensitive to family reactions too. I thought I was kind before but it’s made me kinder, more empathetic.
Coming to terms with the uncertainty isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. I feel like I’m getting there. One of the big things I’ve learnt about cancer is that that makes you really want to live.