My name is Bernie Phelan. I am a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Breast Care at the Wellington Hospital and see the many phases women go through when given a breast cancer diagnosis.
Difficult emotions and responses include numbness, fear, shock, disbelief, as well as anger, betrayal, grief and sadness. For the patients and their loved ones it can feel overwhelming. In the midst of this sudden whirlwind patients are also expected to gather information, learn medical phrases that can feel like a new language, understand treatment choices and make difficult decisions around surgery.
You may be asking yourself: ‘How do I tackle this? Where do I start?’ My role is to provide information and support to patients and their loved ones through their breast cancer journey. We are currently living in very strange times due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Most patients would normally come to hospital supported by family members and they would have direct contact with their medical team to discuss their breast surgery. In regular times I will often see three or four family members or friends accompanying patients to their surgery and admission to hospital appointments. These practices are being challenged right now because of hospital policies prohibiting visitors, meaning family and friends cannot rally round and offer support in person, although they are still giving emotional support over the phone etc…
Please be assured your breast cancer nurses and medical teams are here for you, doing everything they can to support you. Myself, my colleagues, and Future Dreams, have composed this information to try to bring you comfort, reassurance and most importantly knowledge as you recover from your breast cancer surgery.
For the past five years, following her own recovery from breast cancer treatment, Amanda has supported patients at the Royal Free Hospital Show +Tell Breast Cancer Reconstruction Group. She has also supported individuals referred by doctors, nurses, family and friends. Amanda has offered her support and reassurance and is happy to answer your questions about pre and post-surgery speaking from her own personal experience.
To arrange a phone or video call please contact Amanda at email@example.com
Help is available for breast cancer patients who need support even if they cannot leave their homes. Breast Cancer Haven is providing information, giving reassurance, counselling, life coaching, and mindfulness advice. Breast Cancer Haven can offer one-to-one emotional, physical and practical support and since the outbreak of COVID-19, it remains committed to providing support to anyone who needs help even if they cannot leave their homes.
Breast Cancer Haven has adapted its programme and continues to provide care and one-to-one support virtually or over the phone. It is also providing a range of online classes and support groups with a team of specialist-trained therapists, nurses, and counsellors. If you need support: Call on 0300 012 0112 (Monday to Friday 9am-5pm). Visit www.breastcancerhaven.org.uk
Breast Cancer Now’s helpline team is working remotely for the first time ever to ensure patients can continue to reach Breast Cancer Now for information and support in these uncertain times. Breast Cancer Now Helpline number is 0808 800 6000 and their specialist nurses are currently available from 10am to 3pm, Monday to Friday. If you need someone to talk to, specialists are just at the end of the phone.
NOTE: If you have received treatment for breast cancer and are concerned about Covid-19, please visit www.breastcancernow.org and search ‘coronavirus’. Information will be updated regularly as further expert advice from the NHS is made available. Visit www.breastcancernow.org
Normally you would be referred to the high street stores to buy the necessary post-surgery bras – one for immediately after your operation, and one to wear six to eight weeks later as you start to heal, and we could help advise on the right fit. This is not currently possible, however, Future Dreams Ambassador Monica Harrington has created a video explaining how you can achieve a supportive and comfy fit with your softie or prosthesis.
Watch Monica’s online advice:
The journey through breast cancer diagnosis and surgery can be both physically and mentally draining for you and your loved ones. At this time of quarantine and self-isolation, it can be even more of a challenge.
Dr Mary Burgess is a consultant clinical psychologist/psychotherapist, with extensive experience helping cancer patients come to terms with body image, sexual relations, anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Mary has produced a video to support those touched by breast cancer and to help them cope with their feelings when facing treatment and surgery during COVID 19.
Rebecca Sellars, a London-based Physiotherapist who specialises in the treatment of breast cancer patients, shares her advice on post-treatment exercises to try. After breast cancer surgery it is vital that you gradually increase movement in your arms, shoulder and chest area, whilst avoiding any strain on your stitches and scars. It is recommended that you start your exercise immediately after surgery.
A video of advice and other important information has been produced by Rebecca, who explains some simple movements that will help you recover from surgery, feel physically comfortable, and more at ease in your body.
If you have any further suggestions of support that is needed or you think you can help us help the women and men whose lives have been touched by breast cancer please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We wish you and your families the very best at this difficult time. Please follow us on our social media channels: @Futuredreamscharity on Facebook / Instagram and @futuredreamss on Twitter.
If you want to see some of the work Future Dreams is doing during the Covid-19 crisis, and watch our trustee Joanna Franks, Consultant Breast and Oncoplastic Surgeon, explaining the NHS’s new ways of caring for breast cancer patients click on this BBC news report.