Eirian Baker is a business coach and facilitator who lives in Luton. She is just finishing her final day of treatment on the Heartwood Chemotherapy ward at Spire Harpenden, and shares her experiences thus far.
“I felt a lump in the shower in the end of November 2014. My mother-in-law died of breast cancer, and a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago, and she emphasised to me the importance of regularly checking.
"I left it a month so I could check it wasn’t related to hormones, but when it was still there I saw my GP. My GP immediately referred me to Mr Pittam at Spire Harpenden.
"On 3 January 2015 I had my mammogram and ultrasound of the lump with Mr Pittam. Four days later it was confirmed that I had breast cancer. As the cancer was relatively small on the ultrasound I had a lumpectomy to be followed by radiotherapy.
"When I was operated on the lump was larger than expected and had spread to a lymph node, making my following treatment more complicated.
"All the staff around recovery and on the ward when I had my operation were fantastic.
"I started my chemotherapy on 17 February. Anne Marie, the chemotherapy sister, went through my treatment plan with me, I also spoke to Dr Ah-See (consultant oncologist) who gave me a lot of information about what to expect.
"I am currently on my last treatment with taxol which makes me quite drowsy – I read and snooze while I have it. I am very independent and like having the treatment in my own private room with my husband.
"I have three hours of being very looked after, the first thing I am asked when I come in is whether I would like a tea or a coffee. The ladies here are efficient and empathetic; they bob in and out of the room checking that I am happy. They work so well as a team and everything is seamless.
"My chemotherapy treatment with taxol has given me a routine, I have a blood test each Monday, and on Tuesday I have the treatment.
"Everyone is so empathetic and encouraging and you can tell they have amazing enthusiasm for what they do, which makes me feel really safe.
"Jacqui (Kenyon, breast care clinical nurse specialist) was with me every step of the way. This gave me a continuity of care as she has been with me throughout, giving me support and advice. I didn’t feel that I was passed from pillar to post, rather I have been gently carried along.
"Following on from my experience I am pushing all my friends to sign up for private health insurance, as I believe the care and treatment I have received has been excellent."
"It has been nice to meet others in a similar situation and at various stages in their treatment at breast care support groups. I have attended the breast care support group meeting which are organised by the chemotherapy nurses here. I have found them very valuable and I may be leading one of the sessions in December about mindfulness, which I have personally found very valuable throughout my experience.
"I have thought of my treatment as a learning experience. It is very easy to get frightened, especially soon after you are diagnosed. I instead tried to approach this with curiosity, and find the technical side of treatment fascinating."
What advice would you give to a patient about to start this process?
"Don’t be hard on yourself; let how you feel dictate how you approach each day.
"Don’t put pressure on yourself to be a certain way or to reach milestones too quickly; we’re all different. People have asked me whether I am back to work yet, and look surprised when I say no. Some days I feel that I could work for a couple of hours, but my job involves international travel so I haven’t resumed my work as I wouldn’t be able to do it properly.
"I think it is very important to look at the positives. I have had contact from a lot of friends who I had previously lost touch with. This experience has really shown me the value of life and friends and family."