Michael was diagnosed with prostate cancer aged 52; after starting treatment seven months ago he was supported by Cavendish Cancer Care through sessions of counselling. Although his treatment is ongoing, he feels that Cavendish helped him get his confidence back.
“I remember waiting to get my results, when they called me into the cubicle there was a nurse, urologist, a specialist nurse and a consultant and I instantly thought this doesn’t look good. I sat down with my wife and they told me I had cancer. Once they’d said that word I couldn’t hear anything else – I knew they were talking, but I had no idea what was going on.
“All I could think about was my wife, who was in tears. They left me with the specialist nurse who broke everything down into basic terms, but it was still really difficult to take on board. They gave me a huge pack full of information and told me to come back in two weeks to decide what treatment I wanted. I was still trying to get over what had happened – 20 minutes ago I was told I had cancer, and now I had to decide how to cure it.
“I was overwhelmed with the amount of information. I spoke to a Macmillan nurse and she was the one who referred me to Cavendish Cancer Care.
“Cancer was new to me; I didn’t give it much thought until I had it. You start thinking the worst of everything – am I going to die? What will the side effects of treatment be like? – Cavendish helped me cope with the anxieties.”
“Psychologically I was struggling. I found it difficult to talk to family, friends and even my wife. Looking back, it’s silly, but I was embarrassed. I was holding everything in and making myself physically ill. I was tired, lethargic and didn’t want to get out of bed, I was depressed. At that point I knew I needed to see somebody – my doctor offered me medication for depression, but I thought before I tried that I’d like to try talking to someone first.
“I made an appointment at Cavendish and after my assessment, chose to have counselling sessions. I knew that Cavendish would let me try a different therapy if I felt counselling wasn’t for me. The people at Cavendish were lovely, warm and inviting; it was like a haven from home. They made me feel comfortable and they are just genuinely friendly people with no hidden agenda. I had sessions with a counsellor named John, he was an amazing person. He never judged or dictated he just showed me my options.
“John made me realise that I was still Michael. That I was a caring, understanding and kind person and cancer couldn’t take that away from me.”
“Before I came to Cavendish, I was depressed. I was really struggling. The problem is you can’t see cancer, you just go out and do what you normally do, your colleagues think you’re okay because you’re there but then you get back home and cry in the shower. I was worried about talking to my wife who had lost her mum to cancer; I didn’t want to put all my anxiety and stress on her. John helped me to communicate and told me that some people are stronger than you think.
“John took a lot of stress and anxiety off of me by making me realise it wasn’t my fault and that sharing a problem really releases the pressure. It sounds silly because it’s so straightforward but when you’re struggling to find answers everything feels cloudy, he helped me move the clouds away and see things from a different point of view.
“After a session with John I felt like I could take on the world. I felt nearly 7 feet tall, I could hold my head up high and go out there and face anything. My condition hasn’t changed, but my mind-set has.”
“I can still draw on the coping techniques John showed me now, like writing letters if you’re finding it hard to communicate with someone. Sharing was a big thing for me and it took a lot of weight off my shoulders, and when I did start to open up to my wife, she helped me more than I helped her really.
“Cavendish gave me a lot more confidence and made me a stronger person through self-belief. But it’s also helped my wife because I can talk to her a lot more easily. I know that if the situation changes the doors are open for me or for my wife if she needs to go and talk to them, and it doesn’t have to be now it could be a year down the line. Even that gives me reassurance, it’s not a case of ‘we’re done with Michael, he’s out’. I know I can always come back or make a phone call.
“Cavendish isn’t just about me, it’s about me and my wider circle of friends and family and that’s amazing.”
What if Cavendish hadn’t been there?
“I think I’m lucky that I’ve been to Cavendish and that it’s given me the ability to talk about it and be strong and continue my job. I think if it hadn’t have been there I don’t think I’d still be at work, some days I couldn’t get out of bed and I’d tell my wife I was going to work then when she left I’d get back into bed and when she came home I’d get dressed as if I had been. That’s how bad it got.
“I was struggling with depression and without Cavendish I’d probably be on god knows how many pills a day trying to cope on my own. The people at Cavendish know what I’ve been through, that I’m not the first person to experience this and they know exactly how to talk to me and empathise.
“The mental health side of cancer is overlooked. I experienced through what happened to me that the surgeons, urologists and nurses have a job to do and that’s to make me better. The emotional and mental side of it isn’t necessarily their job description. That’s where Cavendish really comes into its element, they’re equally as important as treatment. They go hand in hand.”