I am 38 years old, diagnosed in May 2018 with Stage 4B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was petrified.
Previous to my diagnosis I’d been working but feeling poorly for some while. I’ve suffered with anxiety issues for many years and as I’d lost a load of weight the health services were treating me for an eating disorder. It was only when I discovered lumps under my armpit and referred to haematology that a biopsy confirmed Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was frail and always related cancer as ‘to die’ and although health services said they could ‘make me better’, I was terrified.
I had some friends and family support: A sister who lives in Weymouth, and Nan and grandad who were amazing. They cooked for me every day, helped with shopping and took me to my appointments. I was then referred to ELF transport team when I needed regular journeys for chemotherapy. The drivers were super friendly and always reliable which took some stress away.
In May, 2018 I was referred to ELF@Home and the first week in June I was introduced to a befriending volunteer, Chris. This was not what I wanted at that time. I was scared of someone else coming into my life, but my Nan said it would take some pressure of her and my sister convinced me it would be a good thing. Sue, the service manager, introduced me to Chris. I was super, super anxious. I cancelled the first meeting but Chris made another appointment which I stuck with.
At that time, everyone I saw, friends, hospital staff, family etc. talked about my health and hospital appointments. Chris talked about normal stuff which really helped take my mind to a different place. Chris is very encouraging and helpful if I had questions. She had an understanding. ELF@Home has taught me a lot; that I can be friends with a stranger and to open up, to a point where now I look forward to Chris coming. I enjoy the general chit chat; she tells me stories of her life. I tell her things. Now we’re at a stage where we’re planning activities together. For example, I drive to the café for coffee and cake, we go for walks with my dog and we’re hoping to play racquetball when I’m stronger. This makes me want to get better. Chris is always there, she’s local to me and now we’re good friends. I still have a lot of anxiety but I’m looking forward to a future. I’m hoping to get back into work but nervous about my ability to cope with that. To improve my confidence and to give something back to ELF for their support I’m volunteering in ‘Filling Time’, the kiosk in Yarty Ward.
Volunteering in Filling Time came about because I understood Craig’s relief was agency staff. As I’d worked in catering I offered to help. Going into the hospital for a different reason has helped my anxiety. I’d had huge anxiety before clinic appointments but I’m now much less anxious….volunteering helps the charity and it helps me. Even when I go back to work I want to continue volunteering. I’ve worked 2 days on my own so far and feel confident covering for Craig’s annual leave.
I feel ELF has played an active part in my recovery. In transport for appointments, befriending, and reducing my anxiety which was something I found so crippling hard.
My Nan recently said that I’d overcome the biggest hurdle that will happen in my life. This has stayed with me and has given me the strength to face a personal fear…Flying. My dream is to go to Disney. My Nan and I will be spending my next birthday in Euro Disney, travelling to France by plane!