What’s double-zero.org all about? Double-zero is my legacy after breast cancer rocked my world in 2017. I had no idea what HER2+ meant, who to turn to, or where to go for advice. So I Googled… That was a fundamental error for me. Gripped with …
Tag: breast cancer
In this article, Cancer Support UK tell us about how their support groups can help someone who has finished cancer treatment and is struggling to navigate post-cancer life. At Cancer Support UK, we understand that it’s perfectly normal to be left with anxiety and concerns …
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘movement is medicine’, but can it really help those preparing, going through or recovering from breast cancer treatment?
Over the coming weeks, Sarah Newman, Cancer & Exercise Specialist and Breast Cancer Rehab Coach, will be discussing how to overcome and improve some of the challenges faced by those who have been through a breast cancer.
An introduction to exercising after a breast cancer diagnosis
As you may have experienced first-hand, treatment for breast cancer can conjure up a number of physical and mental side effects that may sound familiar:
- Limited shoulder mobility after surgery.
- Weight management through hormone treatment.
- Lymphoedema and the associated limitations and fears.
- Joint aches and pains limiting movement from ongoing treatments.
- Fatigue, hot flushes, disturbed sleep brought on by medically induced menopause.
- But also mental challenges like loss of body confidence, anxiety, low mood and lack of motivation.
The list seems endless. Can you relate to any of these?
There is a solution, and it is in your control
You’ll be pleased to hear that there is a solution in helping reduce a number these challenges. It’s a new drug that’s completely free and has very few negative side effects. It can help you sleep better, move better, manages your stress, lowers your blood pressure, and helps you keep your weight under control. It improves your heart and lung function and can raise your energy levels. Have you guessed it yet – EXERCISE!
Now this may sound counter intuitive (or too good to be true), and perhaps extremely challenging. ‘How can I exercise when I feel rubbish’ – I hear you cry. But genuinely, extensive research has shown that exercising gently and regularly during and after cancer treatment is safe, feasible and beneficial.1 Regardless of what cancer you have and the care plan you’re given, keeping physically active may have a positive effect on aspects of your physical and mental wellbeing including:1
- Improving overall physical functioning
- Reducing fatigue levels
- Improving or maintaining muscle strength
- Improving or maintaining bone health
- Controlling anxiety
- Raising self-esteem
- Reducing chances of cancer recurrence
Research aside, let me confirm I have not only seen these benefits in my own personal cancer journey but also in the clients I have trained, before, during and after treatment.
Movement is medicine, but like any medicine we need the right type, at the right time and at the right dosage
So just to be clear, we’re not talking about running a marathon or spending hours in the gym, but a simple and gentle exercise programme will help manage many of the side effects mentioned above.
So, to start with, here are the basic ‘need to knows’:
- Gentle exercise is a daily non-negotiable. A 20 minute walk around the block is enough to lift your energy and forms the perfect exercise foundation.
- You MUST prioritise your self-care and make exercise part of this.
- Make exercise something you enjoy. Dancing, gardening, cycling, aerobics. Exercise is meant to be fun so make sure you enjoy it!
- To help keep your bones and joints strong, strength or resistance training need to be part of your plan. Simple exercises with just your body weight are enough to build or maintain joint and bone strength – more on this is later blogs.
- Work with a specialist cancer trainer to support you in understanding the best exercises to help create a plan that’s personal to you and your treatment.
- Anything is possible done in the right way and to suit you.
Look out for my next blog discussing the best upper body exercises for improved shoulder mobility, function and strength after treatment. If you have any questions in the meantime, get in touch!
A bit about Sarah
Sarah was treated for cervical cancer in pregnancy in 2018, and in 2019 launched her fitness business ‘Get Me Back’ (www.getmeback.uk). Seeing first hand the effects of exercise on her own recovery, Sarah wanted to do more to help others who were living with and beyond cancer. Those who had been active before their diagnosis but didn’t know where to go next when it came to exercising, or those who just wanted to get started.
So she started studying to become a Cancer and Exercise Rehabilitation Specialist – a Personal Fitness Trainer with a lot of extra knowledge about how cancer and treatment effects the body and impacts exercise.
Sarah has been working with clients face to face and virtually for more than two years now – some living with or beyond cancer, others who have family members affected by the disease – but she aims to not only give them good advice on how to keep active, but also a safe space to escape the world of cancer and regain a bit of control over their body and mind.
Since lockdown when life and work became very virtual, Sarah’s business has expanded to support those living with and beyond cancer across the UK and even further afield, online. So much so that in 2020 she launched a series of online recovery courses for those who have completed active treatment for breast or gynaecological cancers.
Sarah also runs a monthly online membership offering three weekly group classes, nutritional advice and monthly chats with guest speakers discussing all things wellbeing and cancer.
Sarah’s programmes aim to build participants back up in the safest and most effective ways following their cancer and treatment. But also aim to give members the confidence to re-join more mainstream exercise to continue their journey back to fitness.
Sarah has completed her CanRehab Level 4 Cancer & Exercise Rehabilitation qualification and is also a Breast Cancer Rehab Coach. She works virtually and face to face in the Surrey countryside. Those looking to participate in an exercise programme can be referred to Sarah by emailing
- ACSM: Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Patients and Survivors
By Katie Murray, Love of literacy One and a half years of breast cancer treatments have left me feeling like a broken house. Chemotherapy. Three surgeries. Radiotherapy. Hormone therapy. I am all smashed windows; a trail of litter and destruction running up to my door. …
By Annabel Mackie and Rachel Evans from FF4C Fighting fit for cancer Exercise has been shown to provide powerful benefits for your physical health and emotional well-being when you have cancer. Engaging in exercise after diagnosis significantly lowers the risk of death from cancer and …
Hi. I’m Emma. Married to Darren and co-owner of two small humans, Toby (seven) and Chloe (two), and Beagle Arthur (nine). Lawyer by day- representing nurses, I’m now also an author by night – hopefully inspiring patients, after my unexpected journey with Breast Cancer. Buckle up for that roller coaster of a ride as here we go….
Breast cancer wasn’t on my ’40 things at 40′ bucket list
In 2019 I was happily ticking off my ’40 things at 40’ bucket list after returning to work following my second maternity leave. What wasn’t on the list was a triple negative breast cancer diagnosis.
On the 14th June I woke up. Yawn. Stretch. Happen to rub my chest and…
“What the hell is that?”
I’d found a lump under my right breast that felt like that bobbly bit on your wrist. I knew that didn’t belong there and a couple hours later I was bearing my boob to my GP. She didn’t like the look of it either, made a referral and within two weeks I was off to the breast care unit at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital.
28th June – “You have cancer” a Grade 3 Mixed Ductal Lobular cancer to be exact.
A summer of fun is replaced with hospital visits, scans and chemotherapy
To say the bottom fell out of my world would be an understatement. I’ve never felt fear like it in that moment. I was 40, I didn’t feel unwell, there was no history of breast cancer in my family. Having lost three stone at Slimming World that year, and undertaken a lot of work on my mindset, I was ironically in the best shape of my life both mentally and physically. And just as well as I was going to need all those positivity tools.
Suddenly my summer of our carefree holiday to Menorca, a mini trip to Edinburgh Tattoo, and no doubt countless soft play playdates was replaced with numerous hospital visits, scans, prodding and poking and then straight in with 16 rounds of chemotherapy (‘The poisoning’) starting 23rd July 2019. This was followed by a lumpectomy (‘The chop’) in January 2020 and 5 rounds of radiotherapy (‘The frying’) just as COVID-19 lockdown was kicking off in April 2020.
Dark humour, silliness and business as usual helped me and the people supporting me
I decided it could take my hair, but it wasn’t taking my humour. I sent text messages to my friends and family making it clear it was business as usual, insisting that my dark humour and silliness would be the way forward. Once people got on board with this, it helped me keep a sense of normality. But it also helped them.
I wasn’t making light of cancer – it’s a serious, bloody horrendous disease – but a cancer diagnosis didn’t mean my personality had to change or that it defined me. On the contrary, it was actually quite liberating to be constantly silly and a little bit sweary. After all, I couldn’t get away with that in the day job! Ironically, whilst going through treatment for cancer, I felt the most authentic version of me I think I’ve ever felt.
I tried to make it as fun as possible and grab all the opportunities that presented. Uncle Fester at Halloween, sweep stakes on hair loss, a ‘chemo sitter’ rota for my friends to come with me on treatment days. I’ve got so many stories.
Now, chemotherapy is no walk in the park. I had 12 x weekly poisonings of one variety of cocktails, followed up with 4 x 3 weekly poisonings of a rather nasty red concoction that was not kind. At their worst, the cumulative side-effects included: extreme fatigue, spotty skin, complete hair loss, dry skin, chemo brain, loss of taste, mouth ulcers, menopausal hot sweats, lifting nails, and a night’s stay on the NHS when I felt absolutely horrendous.
Christmas arrives and scans reveals ‘lumpy’ has gone
The good news by Christmas was that the scans revealed, or rather didn’t reveal, the presence of ‘lumpy’ anymore.
Now you might think that this would be a time to be jubilant. But this was actually the time I started to feel a bit down. Going in for treatment weekly, and then three weekly, when chemo stopped it felt like my safety blanket had been taken away. For the first time I’d got on this treatment rollercoaster I had time to stop, to think, and think “blimey, that was big”.
In January I had a lumpectomy (removing ‘lumpy’s previous dwelling place) and two lymph nodes removed. A biopsy confirmed NED (no evidence of disease) on the day of Brexit. Sharing my personal journey with all big worldly events I had five sessions of radiotherapy just as we went into lockdown.
What cancer taught me
Cancer taught me lots of things:
- It didn’t just force me to slow down but to STOP. I didn’t have a choice in the matter.
- To be kinder to myself, to acknowledge my new limitations, to ask for help, to accept help, to not be afraid to talk about difficult things.
- To let go of negativity. To look up more and notice the beauty around me, and the little wonderful things that were right there under my nose for the taking.
- To spend more time properly noticing what the children were doing and trying to tell me, rather than saying ‘in a minute’ or ‘I’ve just got to do this first’. To say ‘yes’ more, and also to say ‘no’ more.
- To spend time on myself, doing the things that make me happy. To be a ‘human being’ rather than a ‘human doing’.
During treatment I’d been journaling. I always found it cathartic to empty my head of jumbled thoughts, commit them to paper and unscramble them. To help keep on top of my phone constantly lighting up like a Christmas tree with well wishers I sent my weekly ‘cancer comms’ to all my friends and family on ‘Happy Chemo Tuesday’.
You should write a book
After calls of “you should write a book” I thought “I bloody will!” I’d always wanted to write a book and ironically cancer gave me both the time and the subject. I realised through my story I could reach out and help others.
I self-published ‘Take my hair (but not my humour)’ One mum’s journey seeing off breast cancer on the 1st October 2020 and hit the No.1 Amazon eBook spot. I also donate £2 from every paperback sold to my local FORCE Cancer Charity. At the time of writing, I’ve donated nearly £700.
If you’d like to read the full story sharing all the highs, lows, and everything in between you can either order a super-duper special edition version directly from me by emailing (with photos, you won’t get that on Amazon) or you can grab the paperback or eBook version on Amazon.
If you’d like to read more of my ramblings you can check out my website www.lightboxblogger.co.uk or follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter @lightboxblogger.
I am so passionate about the importance of talking and sharing my story to show that positives can be found in the darkest of times if only you’re open to looking for them.
Surviving cancer is as much about catching it early and being positive about the outcome, as it is about the treatment. I am Carolann Bruce, and I am a breast cancer survivor, but only because I refused to take no for an answer. A dream …
Laura is a mindfulness meditation practitioner, leading group and one-to one sessions in both the private and voluntary sector. For more information, visit www.lauraashurst.co.uk
A worrier from childhood
I have always been a worrier. That natural ability that we all have to worry about things seems to have accompanied me for as long as I can remember. I can’t recall a time during my childhood when I didn’t worry. When I dealt with one worry, I would lie in bed and think about what my next worry would be whilst my twin sister slept soundly in the bunk bed above me. Lizzie used to sleep on the top bunk because she didn’t wet the bed and I did. I think my worrying and bed-wetting were very good companions. Why am I telling you this?
Being open about being a worrier
I’m telling you because I’m no longer ashamed, not about me wetting the bed, although I’m not ashamed of that now either and growing up I used to be, but about me being a worrier. I spent so many years trying to cover up my worries; lots of them would have appeared trivial and ridiculous to other people. I worried about what people would think of my worries.
As you can see, the level of attention I gave them extended to them being protected from the opinions of others. It was time consuming, life robbing and totally destructive. My carefully honed exterior appearance worked extremely hard to cover up what was going on inside my mind. I became very skillful at masking how I was feeling. My worrying habit’s crippling effect was a well-kept secret.
And then, aged 34, in the summer of 2001, when our daughter Megan was 3 and our son, Jack, was six months old I found a lump in my right breast when I was in the shower. Within three days I was being examined by my GP, who felt the lump and suggested that what I’d presented with was probably benign and ‘nothing to worry about’ but that she would refer me anyway for further tests to get a definite answer.
Waiting for a diagnosis: permission to worry
Telling a worrier not to worry is like taking an ice cube out of the freezer and expecting it not to melt. Of course I worried, excessively, (worriers don’t like the word ‘probably’) whilst at the same time trying to convince myself that it was going to be ok. Anybody reading this who has walked in the shoes of ‘have I got cancer or not?’ knows the amount of bargaining that goes on at this potential pre-entry point into the cancer world.
Suddenly I felt normal because wouldn’t everybody, albeit at varying levels, worry until they got their definitive results upon finding a lump? I was given a glimpse into a world where it felt like my worrying was being given permission to flare up and in a very odd way that felt calming to me.
Being told I have the ‘best type of breast cancer’
I had no idea what ‘ductal cancer in situ – micro-invasive’ meant when the results came back, but kept hearing, ‘that’s the best type of breast cancer to get’, which made no sense to me at all. Nothing that I read or heard made me feel any better. My diagnosis had the ‘c’ word in it. That was my main point of focus and of course I blamed myself.
The judgmental aspect of being human that my worrying had significantly developed for me over the years arrived easily at my front door. Sampling of twelve lymph nodes showed no subsequent evidence of cancer cells. A lumpectomy, and 25 sessions of radiotherapy followed which was the recommended course of action.
The worry doors were now very firmly wedged open to what if, and when, worry routes into the mental corridors of my mind. And all the while I wasn’t capable of caring for my baby son or my daughter properly. Worries about being a terrible mother plagued me whilst on the radiotherapy plinth.
Another primary breast cancer diagnosis followed by a secondary breast cancer diagnosis
A condensed version of the next six years included another diagnosis of primary breast cancer and a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer in December 2007, six weeks after my 40th birthday. Life had dealt me a card that included an inbuilt ability to worry about my own shadow along with two primary breast cancer diagnoses and a Stage 4 secondary breast cancer diagnosis by the time I’d entered my fourth decade.
Creating a mindfulness toolkit
I was referred to an amazing clinical neuropsychologist, Dr Annie Hickox from whom I continue to receive mental health support. Alongside that, I discovered mindfulness and its ability to totally transform the way that thoughts, feelings and emotions can be viewed, with some distance created between you and them, so that the huge ball of worry that’s so very easily created in our minds can be managed much more effectively.
My mindfulness took kit includes self-kindness and self-compassion; hugely welcome tools that have the ability to make me feel nurtured and supported as opposed to the destructive nature of self-sabotage and self-loathing created by excessive worrying. It has been life enhancing and given me a renewed sense of self in relation to the body I inhabit, an awareness of reacting rather than responding to repetitive thoughts, and importantly, it’s given me choices.
What mindfulness has taught me
Mindfulness has taught me that I can choose to spend every day worrying, becoming more and more tangled up in my thoughts, missing so much of what goes on around me as my worries gnaw into my precious time or I can choose to be mindfully aware of and acknowledge my thoughts and feelings without becoming overwhelmed by them, helped along by my breath as a constant anchor. Mindfulness allows me to live presently.
Living with secondary breast cancer
I have been living with secondary breast for 13 years. I currently reside in that most luxurious of places called stability where every person living with Stage 4 cancer aims to be. The privilege of being stable and still alive is not lost on me as I reflect on the median survival rates for secondary breast cancer. Gratitude is one of the fundamental pillars of mindfulness.
I am hugely aware of just how fortunate I am that the aromatase inhibitor drug Letrozole is currently controlling the nature of my metastatic disease whilst Zometa is supporting the damage that long-term exposure to it has caused to my bones. And, I’m aware of course that nothing lasts forever. Whilst this drug is working well now, nobody knows what the next round of tests will show.
Daily mindfulness and mindfulness meditation helps me to enjoy each day full
Practicing mindfulness and mindfulness meditation daily is helping me to enjoy each day fully. It’s helping, knowing that whatever the future holds for me, I haven’t wasted precious time being bound and chained by the heaviness of my excessive worrying. I am living, and I will not allow my worries to live my life for me. The hamster wheel of worry and rumination is often still present but now I choose how fast it spins.
Laura is a member of the ambassador team for the Building Resilience in Breast Cancer Centre led by Professor Naz Derakshan where she leads monthly mindfulness meditation sessions for its private Facebook members. She is driven by the need for women to be fully supported to develop their emotional resilience following a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Laura is a member of Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Campaigns team where she has been involved in lobbying the government since 2011 in a range of campaigns to help cancer patients receive better standards of care and treatment. Laura has also campaigned on behalf of people living with secondary breast cancer with Breast Cancer Now as part of their Secondary Breast Cancer Campaign Group. She is a professional speaker, talking publicly about her experiences of living with secondary breast cancer.
The information and content provided on this page is intended for information and educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice.
Emma Herring is a freelance writer, editor and communications consultant. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. A routine mammogram leads to a shock diagnosis My cancer was the birthday present you never want to receive. Having reached the age of 50 and celebrated …
As a Breast CNS Team in a large NHS Trust, we see breast cancer patients who we support from screening, diagnosis, treatment and beyond. Our role has changed over the years and non-more so than in the last twelve months since the coronavirus pandemic hit us.
We have had to adapt and adjust how we manage patients, developing new ways of supporting our patients with minimal face to face contact. In addition the support mechanisms around us have also had to change and this has impacted in our ability to refer to networks, counselling and charities.
The support offered to women in these situations can vary but in normal times would include specialist nurse support in clinics and onward referrals to counselling or community teams. Information leaflets are available and with professional and family support the majority of patients simply get on with their life changing experience.
Issues often arise once treatment or regular contact with a service stops. The patients may feel abandoned or left to cope on their own, unsure of where to go with that uncertainty or question that feels trivial but also important.
During the last twelve months life has been different for all of us but especially those with a cancer diagnosis. The adjustment to having little or no social contact and the informal support networks we all use have been restricted. The feeling of isolation becomes a real issue, who can these women turn to for support and advice in a ‘no contact’ world.
As a team we have seen an increase in the number of patients diagnosed with primary, secondary or metastatic breast cancer under the age of 50 years, (many with young children) we recognised this has the potential to add another layer of anxiety in an already challenging situation.
Just how do you juggle chemotherapy with home schooling?
The CNS team has found this a challenging time and recognised the gaps in support for these women – both in a professional and informal way.
Moving forward we want to make sure women are supported, that they have the right information to make informed decisions – it’s what we would all want for our family and friends.
We felt what was needed was ‘time’ – a time for them to talk, – about themselves, as themselves with no judgment.
To talk about how they were coping, with cancer, with the housework, with cooking, with childcare. We want to give women the opportunity to bring along their young children so we could develop ‘family centred’ support.
We want to provide a way to Navigate the conversation, keep the communication open and honest so that it becomes okay for the children to be inquisitive, so they can learn about mummy’s cancer, why mummy’s hair has gone, why she is napping a bit more today, why we can’t go to the playground.
Our second focus, is Resources………….
What more reading material can we provide to our patients and what is available that we haven’t used before.
We have found a huge variety of books, blogs, phone apps, charity websites, learning kits and flash cards! We recognise the use of more interactive tools is useful, being able to sit down with them in clinic and talk about individual family needs where we can work out how they might adjust their language and explain to their children more about mummy’s breast cancer.
We recognise that this support and resource isn’t offered as standard, and may account for more negative outcomes and experiences.
Our vision is to make this part of our core service provision.
We have applied and are currently waiting to hear about our application for a charity grant to support and take this initiative forward – this it is just the beginning………………….We want to be able to provide family centred support to other cancer groups, not just breast.
But for now, we want to set up our service, allow it to develop and grow, directed by our patients and what works best for them. We want to prepare our patients for open discussion and sign posting to appropriate resources for their individual needs.
We are very excited for the future and look forward to bridging the gaps in support and to better meet the needs of our patients facing breast cancer in a holistic and family centred way.
The information and content provided on this page is intended for information and educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice.
This guest blog is from Mary Huckle, in which she talks about how she told her 10-year-old twin girls and 14-year-old son she’s been diagnosed with cancer. She shares her tips for dealing with children of this age group. 7 Things to Consider When Telling …
Motherhood is hard enough without a cancer diagnosis! In a time of pandemic, being confined to our homes, home schooling and wearing countless hats of not only parent, but teacher, entertainer, friend, sibling, chef and cleaner, having a ten-year-old pre tween daughter and going through …