I’m Anna. I am a nurse working in occupational health at UHBW, and in August 2016 I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. 

Sadly, cancer had already touched our family - my Mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014. When any family member announces this news, your first thoughts are always about losing them. There is uncertainty and fear of the unknown, gut-wrenching feelings that soon all roll into one. 

Mum went on to have surgery and chemotherapy, and in May 2015 she went into remission. For anyone affected by cancer, remission is a good place to be, and where you want to stay.

When I was diagnosed, it came as a huge shock. I felt well and was not aware that I had any of the risk factors associated with breast cancer.

But in fact I had three high-grade tumours. As I prepared myself to embark on my own treatment, my thoughts returned to my Mum and how she’d dealt with her cancer diagnosis and treatment: the tables had turned. I was now the one announcing bad news. 

I focused on the road ahead. I had chemotherapy at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre (BHOC), then a mastectomy followed by radiotherapy. Later, in view of Mum’s ovarian cancer, I would also have my ovaries removed. 

I decided that I wouldn’t go to any support groups, and preferred to ‘go it alone’. Although I knew that young women (some in their twenties even) can get breast cancer, at the time I seemed to be the only one in my age group and I thought I might not relate to the older women. Eventually one of the nurses successfully persuaded me to attend one group, and here I met a very glamorous lady called Trish. 

We ended up going through chemotherapy treatment together. In fact, there were four of us; Trish, myself, Sue and Jo. 

The circumstances weren’t great, but we looked forward to meeting up and we kept each other going. At each chemo session, we tried to make the best of the situation by glamming up and just generally having a laugh. We thought the nurses might tell us off for being too loud or happy, but we always managed to cheer everyone up, including the oncologist. Those special people have become lifelong friends.

Then, as I was nearing the end of my chemotherapy my Mum was diagnosed as terminal. The bottom fell out of my world again. This time I knew that she was going to die. It was devastating news. Mum embarked on chemotherapy once again and at one point we were even having chemo on the same day. 

And then, in September 2018, my good friend Trish died. At first there were four of us. Now there are three. We still meet up and support each other.

In February 2019, my Mum - the most courageous, gentle, softly spoken woman you could imagine, the person who held me up when I was falling - died.

It’s been a tough, and heart-breaking few years. Through it all I have been so grateful to all the staff at BHOC and I’m very aware that I’m lucky to have received all my treatment, unlike lots of cancer patients in this Covid-19 climate. 

So that’s me. I’m Anna. I have had cancer myself. I’m the close relative of someone who’s died of cancer. And I’m a friend of someone who’s died of cancer. 

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