Life unravelled for Alison when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2017, and her father had also been diagnosed with cancer. After hearing about Blythe House through a close friend, she wanted to find out about accessing support services.
Alison admits that she cried throughout her whole first appointment at Blythe House in September 2017 after having a mastectomy the month before. But the hospice has helped to support her ‘practically, emotionally and creatively’ and after that initial visit, Alison says: ‘It was the first time I’d felt good about myself in a long time.’
Now, with a positive outlook on her prognosis, Alison was discharged from the hospice’s Living Well Service in February 2019. But it’s certainly not goodbye!
The Buxton resident, who worked in a local school, explains: ‘When I found out I had breast cancer, one of my first thoughts was that I could not give up work as I was halfway through a term! When I left on the last day of term, I put an ‘out of office’ response on my emails saying that I wouldn’t be back at the start of the new term, but I’d be back a few weeks late. I thought I’d just be off for a few weeks; but life changed dramatically with all these things that I just wasn’t expecting.
‘Coming to Blythe House, I have been able to meet and chat to staff, volunteers and other service users about my circumstances and what I was going through. Doing this really helped to normalise the situation; on one or two occasions I thought I was going mad! But my time at Blythe House made me realise that I was alright and that I wasn’t going crazy; other people were in the same boat too.’
Alison had further surgery in June 2018. She explains: ‘As well as dealing with my own prognosis and the side effects of the cancer and medication, my Dad was also very unwell too. After my mastectomy, I was told that my outlook looked good. My Dad’s cancer was not curable, and after spending time at Ashgate Hospice he died on my birthday in summer 2018.
‘I had counselling at Blythe House, initially about my own health but as Dad’s condition deteriorated, I found that life just unravelled. The counselling gave me an opportunity to talk about my thoughts and feelings.
‘Having never picked up a paint brush in my life before, I now regularly paint at home and have created some pieces of art that I’m proud of as a result of taking part in arts and crafts here at Blythe House. I got involved in the writing group and although the weekly sessions at the hospice came to the end of the programme, myself and other members of the group have continued to meet in our own homes to write, chat and share experiences together.
‘I also accessed other services through Blythe House including reiki, reflexology and financial advice after I gave up work. The hospice has given me the tools that I need to take forward and continue in life.
‘I still attend The Christie hospital for check-ups but my prognosis is good and my outlook is looking much more positive. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I hadn’t come to Blythe House; I can say I certainly wouldn’t be the person that I am today. I will continue to support the hospice through the monthly coffee mornings where I’ll be able to come and see familiar faces and catch up. I also hope to take part in future fundraising events. I did the Jingle Bell Jog in December 2018 with very good friends; we came last but we did it – it was an amazing and uplifting day!’