December 1, 2023
Sue Cooke, (63), lives in the Peak District and has two grown up children. She retired from her NHS role in 2018. Here she tells us about her recent diagnosis of breast cancer, her treatment and her involvement with Cavendish Cancer Care.
Sue was enjoying her retirement when in 2022 she found a lump in her breast. She wasn’t too worried as she had kept up with regular mammograms and had previously had a history of benign cysts however, she made an appointment with her GP to discuss the problem. Her GP was concerned and referred Sue straight away for further checks.
Further scans and three biopsies revealed a grade 2 tumour which was around 4.5cm. “It came as a real shock,” said Sue. “I know anyone can get cancer, but you don’t think it will happen to you. I didn’t want to tell anyone at this stage in my journey apart from a few family members, who were a great support to me. I was really in shock at that stage.”
Sue was given the option of a wide local excision of the tumour with immediate partial breast reconstruction, which she had in autumn 2022. A second surgery was required in December 2022 as surgeons felt there wasn’t sufficient ‘clear margin’ around the tumour site (clear margins in breast cancer means ensuring that the outer edges of the margins, after the tumour has been removed, don’t contain cancer cells, to help prevent reoccurrence.)
“Luckily the second surgery went well and just before Christmas 2022 I received the ‘very welcome’ news that the cancer had been removed and my nodes were clear. I was then referred for radiotherapy and hormone therapy, which began in January 2023.”
After her initial diagnosis, Sue’s Clinical Nurse Specialist from Weston Park Hospital mentioned the support available at Cavendish Cancer Care and Sue got in touch to book an assessment appointment.
“At the time of my treatment I was in a really dark place, I was feeling very vulnerable and not like myself at all,” said Sue. “I had this unshakeable feeling of dread, even though I knew my prognosis for the cancer was fairly good. I couldn’t sleep and felt like I was on a rollercoaster with my emotions. I tried mindfulness and meditation recommended to me at the hospital but I just couldn’t focus enough at that stage to think too deeply and didn’t really want to either.”
After her assessment with Cavendish, Sue opted for a course of massage with Cavendish therapist Marla, who also incorporated some Reiki into Sue’s treatment.
“The treatment I received at Cavendish was a revelation for me. The whole place felt very welcoming and Marla so nurturing. It really was the first time I felt ‘normal’ since my diagnosis and I came out feeling really relaxed and nurtured after each session – it felt like I was floating on air, I felt so deeply relaxed.”
“I had been nervous about being touched after all my assessment, surgery, and treatment. However, my therapist was so professional and calm that I soon got over my nervousness and the massage has helped me reconnect with that part of me.”
Sue admits she was sceptical about Reiki and didn’t really understand what it was or how it could work, but the Reiki element of her treatment appears to have really helped with relaxation and sleep, which had been very disturbed since her diagnosis.
“I think the treatment did help with my sleep. I definitely noted an improvement after each treatment. The Reiki was interesting. I just felt a deep sense of calm that I hadn’t had for some time. I often talk about Reiki to people I meet now and it’s something I’ve explored further since my treatment.”
Sue is now in recovery and is looking forward to enjoying Christmas with her children and grandchildren.
“I’d recommend Cavendish to anyone struggling with cancer,” says Sue.
“My experience was so positive, and I really credit it with helping me get to where I am now. It’s a fantastic charity and offers something a little different.”