Anne’s story – how an integrative cancer care approach aided her recovery

Article

Following a routine mammogram, Anne aged 60, was shocked to learn that she had developed breast cancer. Read Anne’s story to discover how an integrative cancer care approach at GenesisCare at the Cromwell Hospital in London, aided her recovery and helped get her life back on track.

Anne has always enjoyed a healthy and active lifestyle. She eats well, has never smoked and is very sporty. In her spare time, she plays tennis, practices yoga and frequently walks with her friends in the nearby and beautiful parklands of Kensington Palace Gardens.

Anne says “Keeping active is really important to me and my family – we are all very health conscious. I’m married to a surgeon and both of our children are studying medicine, so we know the importance of looking after our bodies and how adopting a healthy lifestyle can help to reduce the risk of developing cancer."

"In February 2021, I attended my routine three yearly mammogram. I hadn’t experienced any symptoms so wasn’t anticipating a problem. Unfortunately, the mammogram showed I had a lump in my right breast.

I had a biopsy the next day and it was confirmed that I had HER2 negative, estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer. I remember being so angry and couldn’t understand why it had happened to me as I had always looked after myself so well. It just didn’t feel real.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK¹ affecting over 55,000 people per year. It’s more common in women but can also affect men too.

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“I wanted to find out exactly what I was dealing with as soon as possible and knew the importance of being treated quickly. I was recommended a whole body PET-CT and MRI scan of the breasts, but I was told that these would take some weeks to organise. That’s when I decided to use my private medical insurance (PMI) to speed things up, it just made sense. 

My oncologist was very receptive to me using my PMI as this would expedite my scans, and in turn would also free up further appointments for NHS patients. Using my private medical insurance was very easy, there were no issues, and everything was sorted out for me.

I had various scans in the next few days and unfortunately, they revealed that the cancer had spread to some of my lymph nodes, where there were 4 positive lymph nodes in the axilla. I was told that I needed to undergo surgery, where the decision was taken to remove all lymph nodes in the axilla in addition to right mastectomy, which was essential to help prevent the cancer from spreading any further. I was devastated at this news but while I had the option of reconstructive surgery, as I was small chested, I decided not to do that and to just get on with it.

I then had time to recover from my surgery and started my course of chemotherapy the next month. As radiotherapy was next on the agenda, my husband and I researched where I could go for treatment. We’d identified GenesisCare at Cromwell Hospital as a suitable centre as they had all the latest treatments and technologies. It was also very close to where I live so it seemed the obvious place to go and visit to see if it was right for me.” 

GenesisCare Cromwell is very accessible. Private transport can often be provided door to door when required.

Anne explained “I met Jane, the Centre Leader who had agreed to show me around the centre and answer my questions. l absolutely loved the place as soon as I walked in; it was such a calm environment and Jane and all the staff there were very welcoming and really made time for me as a person. There was no question, I immediately felt protected and wanted to be cared for here.

Once I’d made the decision to be treated at GenesisCare I was quickly referred to a leading expert who assessed me and organised my radiotherapy. It was a straightforward process, and the radiotherapy was organised immediately."

Dr John Conibear, GenesisCare’s Centre Clinical Lead, commented “GenesisCare at the Cromwell Hospital offers state of the art radiotherapy technology to optimise outcomes for breast cancer patients.”

"The treatment itself was very straight forward. The radiographers explained exactly what they were going to do and explained how I could utilise a Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH) technique to put distance between my lung and the tumour whilst being treated. I would hold my breath for 30 seconds whilst the beam was activated, and this helped ensure that my organs were protected.

I felt nothing during the treatment and had no side effects apart from some tiredness which may have been from the ordeal my body had been through rather than the radiotherapy.

During this time, I took advantage of accessing the wellbeing treatments provided through GenesisCare’s partnership with Penny Brohn UK. These were all in the centre too - I didn’t need to go elsewhere and it was wonderful. I had a wellbeing consultant on site to provide me with support and advice. I tried reflexology to relax me and even had an Indian head massage to help stimulate hair regrowth as I’d lost my hair from the chemotherapy. I also have access to a nutritionist to give specialist advice about my diet."

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"Following my treatment, I was keen to get back and start exercising again. I didn’t have the motivation to walk by myself, but I appreciated the special exercise sessions that GenesisCare provided at Cromwell Hospital following my treatment. They have a lovely quiet gym with all the equipment that I needed, and the physiotherapist developed a personal exercise programme for me. I felt very safe and protected exercising, there was always a member of staff on hand to help me if I needed them. Being able to use this private gym really helped as I didn’t feel ready to go to a public gym as I felt too self-conscious."

With a philosophy to treat the whole patient not just their cancer, wellbeing and exercise medicine are part of GenesisCare’s personalised care programme and are proven to help deliver improved patient outcomes.

Head of Exercise Medicine, Joshila DeVile commented “Research shows that staying active may improve long-term cancer survival rates and may also reduce the risk of your cancer returning. That’s why we believe exercise should play an important role in cancer treatment. It helps your body to get stronger and enables some therapies to work better, speeding up your recovery."

"Exercise Medicine made a huge difference to me and my recovery. I’m now looking forward to starting my yoga classes there and also taking advantage of the support of the nutritionist. They have monthly classes and even a Penny Brohn UK recipe book designed specifically for patients with cancer.

I’m pleased to say that I am planning to start tennis again soon. I don’t yet have full rotational movement back in my arm so serving will be interesting, but I know that getting back on the court will gently help me to build my confidence as well as my strength.”

Anne said “I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend GenesisCare to any of my family or friends. If you are considering treatment, go and visit your local centre and see for yourself what you could be experiencing.”

References

  1. https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/breast-cancer/about accessed March 2022
  2. https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/breast-cancer#heading-Five accessed March 2022