"My reason for being here, as you may know, my personal story starts with being a cancer patient...
10 years ago I was a busy and sleep-deprived mother to our three little boys, who were all adorably feisty and under the age of 5. Like many of these stories begin, my life was fairly routine, somewhat chaotic and held hope for our young family. That is until one day, when I found a lump that turned out to be more lumps, and an aggressive and invasive cancer that led me down a path, which jolted my relatively predictable world.
At that point, I didn’t know anyone else who had cancer, I hadn’t thought about life threatening diseases in this deeply personal way, and I didn’t know which way to turn. I was concerned and confused but I was also very lucky. My story brought me before an exceptional team who reassured me, informed me, gave me courage, made me healthy and inspired me. My story led me to world-class care, and introduced me to the team at Guys’. Thanks to the support I received and the love of family and friends, I recovered, with some bumps along the way, but I continued to thrive and watched my children grow. Now, a decade later, I smile as they stand taller than me.
However, I recognised that my story was not always the case. The calls started and kept coming in, and I could almost tell from ‘hello’ when someone was calling to ask if I would speak with a friend of a friend, or even themselves. I met many others and although our cancers, our diagnosis, our treatments were not always the same, we shared a lot in common. I stared to recognise the patterns - we had the same concerns, we asked the same questions but we responded in different ways. So, I got to studying, I became a student again, did my Masters in Health Psychology, here at Kings. I started research and I began looking at how breast cancer patients adjust emotionally after their treatment concludes. I thought about the future and I wondered how we can better support people through this journey, from the initial diagnosis all the way through to when cancer may just sit in the background but these health concerns might still persist.
My research led me to the concept of survivorship and looking carefully at what that means. Some call it different things, living with and beyond, moving forward or living well. We already do so much of this work here at Guys, within the tumour groups starting with our nurses and consultants, through the wonderful and experienced services at Dimbleby, and with our caring and professional therapists. There are also offerings beyond Guys, nearer to home, within your local communities. But I hoped we could do more to bring it all together.
So we set up the Gordon Survivorship Centre to act as a hub so patients can find all of this information in one place, in print, online or by asking in person. We set out to create bespoke programmes to fill in some of the gaps and, most importantly, we aim to encourage, facilitate and run research to find new ways forward to educate beyond our walls and to impact the landscape of care.
You may have visited us already on the first floor of the Welcome Village. We have a lovely space for events or quiet contemplation, where you can write or read messages of inspiration from survivor to survivor.
To me being a cancer survivor means that despite cancer, despite treatment, despite how it may have affected us and those around us, we can hold our head up high, we can lift ourselves when we are down, we know where to go when we have questions or need help, we know what to do when we stumble and how to lift those we support."