I asked Anna what support she has had available to her, the answers she gave me surprised me a lot. I was completely unaware that you need to contact the Cancer Society yourself should you develop cancer and need support and guidance. I assumed that upon diagnosis the cancer society would make contact with you, but no they don’t.
Cancer sufferers have to be proactive in getting support, and they have to fight for it.
Anna told me that a Cancer Society volunteer hands out sandwiches in the hospital during chemotherapy treatment, sandwich’s which make you vomit. They are there to support and answer questions, but most people are too sick to do that. Anna accessed one of her three free counselling sessions available to her through the Cancer Society, unfortunately, the counsellor she saw told her that she had never counselled someone with cancer before! Anna left and felt worse than before the session and became depressed.
Her Oncologist applied to the Regional Breast Cancer Society foundation for help with childcare costs and the oncology nurse suggested she apply for “Pink Pilates” which she received and told me is amazing for avoiding “cording” (where your tendons in the armpit go tight and rock solid after node removal) and lymphoedema (swelling of the limb)
There has been no aftercare for Anna’s oral health which has deteriorated due to her treatment. She has to sort her own dental care for her teeth, which have been badly damaged from the chemotherapy and are breaking and falling out. I was surprised to learn she doesn’t get any help for her teeth, I would’ve thought that this would-be part of the treatment and aftercare package provided to cancer patients.
The Ministry of Social development who had been giving Anna a benefit during her treatment, wanted her to find work or study two years after her diagnosis. This put pressure on her at a difficult time during which she developed clinical depression, a delayed reaction and post-traumatic stress from her ordeal combined with the fact she recently found another lump in her remaining breast. She had a mammogram and was told the lump was dense breast tissue and nothing to worry about (remember she was told a similar thing when she was patted on the back by her GP at age 30) Unfortunately not all cancer patients in remission are given follow-up full MRIs, or PET (bone) scans after treatment so you can imagine the constant worry that they must live with. Anna has since been placed on the sickness benefit.
It has been two years since Anna’s surgery and she is still on the waiting list for reconstruction and has not even been seen about it.
Anna is slowly coming to terms with what she has been through.
“I feel like the last two years has been a bad dream during which my brother and I got cancer and he died”
She says she is slowly recovering from the depression with the help of a good counsellor and can feel her mojo coming back with the return of her creative passions, such as script writing, acting, and working on renovating her house.
Anna has found incredible support from
Whole Lota Life – A foundation started by women for under 45’s with cancer
Anna has shared her experience with us because she feels that it’s something a lot of people keep secret and she wants to bring more awareness to it.
“The journey is often unpleasant, and people don’t want to hear about it, they want to know your fine, and sometimes you just aren’t.”
Anna wants everyone to know that
“It’s okay to talk about it, and sometimes people need to”
Anna would like to thank the team at “The Jailhouse” and “Miss Nelson Summer 2014”
for creating a Givealittle page that raised enough money to ease the financial strain.
I would like to finish by thanking Anna for sharing her very personal journey with us.