“When I found I had cancer again I discovered Grove House Day Hospice. It is absolutely brilliant. You can have conversations there that would be difficult anywhere else."
Fiona Wright feels lucky - despite being diagnosed with cancer for the second time in ten years. Here she tells her story and how the support and care she has received throughout her treatment has helped her and her family
Fiona, who is now 55, lives in St Albans with husband John and in 2003 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer they had four children between the ages of 10 and 18 living at home.
After receiving her cancer diagnosis, doctors told Fiona that she needed a mastectomy. The operation was carried out and as she did not need to have any chemotherapy, she was able to carry on with her life. “I returned to work and things went back to normal,” Fiona explains, “but the following year I found a lump at the end of the scar. I went back to the breast clinic and had radiotherapy for a month every day, but the doctors didn’t find anything else.
“It was at the breast clinic that I found out about the Cancer, the Next Step course at Grove House. Having cancer is definitely a big shock to the system and I was really attracted to this course which focussed on helping people who have had cancer to get on with their lives.”
Fiona attended the 12 week course at Grove House in 2003. She says: “I went every week on a Monday afternoon and it was brilliant. We did art therapy, yoga and had lunch together. Everyone on the course was in recovery, just like me.
“It really helped me to understand what had happened to me, put things in perspective and then think about the future.”
In October 2013 Fiona’s dad died from cancer aged 83. She helped care for him at home often sitting with him during the night.
Fiona says: “After he died I started to feel very weird and was bumping into things and just not feeling myself. I called my GP and she said she wanted me to have a brain scan.
“I could tell that something wasn’t right as I could see the doctors pointing at things.
“I was sent straight to Watford Hospital where I spent the next two weeks. I was sent home for Christmas and I told everyone my news and that I wasn’t sure how long I had. I knew it was a life-limiting illness.
“After Christmas I was put on steroids and these made me feel very ill. I couldn’t walk so I ended up in a wheelchair. I also had radiotherapy.
“In February and March I was feeling very unwell and then in April I started to feel better and was taken off the steroids. I started to walk again; it was so nice to be able to walk around the garden.
“I had more scans in May and they have not found anything else and the lumps in my head have shrunk, so this is as good as we can hope for.
“I know I am living on borrowed time, but I feel really well.”
Fiona now attends the day hospice at Grove House in St Albans every Friday.
She says: “When I found I had cancer again I discovered Grove House Day Hospice. It is absolutely brilliant. You can have conversations there that would be difficult anywhere else."
“It is just heartening to go there and it makes you feel better. You have medical checks every week, so they pick things up quickly, the nurses are wonderful."
“Perhaps just as important is the fact that I’ve made some good friends there with people who are in similar situations to me. It’s great to be able to talk to people who really understand what you’re going through.”
Fiona’s children are now aged from 20 to 28. She says: “I am so grateful that I got these extra years, I am so glad I didn’t die ten years ago when I first got cancer, they would have been too young to cope then.
“After the first cancer I made sure we did everything, we had some excellent holidays. We did a lot together as a family and it made everyone strong. While there’s no doubt that we all suffered for a while we are now much stronger and feel ready to cope with anything.”