Mum of four, Laura Killen, said that she struggled to talk to anyone about what she was going through, until she met our counsellor, Alison.
“Hello, my name is Laura. I am 40 years old, a mum with four children and I’m married to Simon. My cancer story started in April 2017, when I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.
“I woke one night as we had a 3-month old baby and felt a small, hard lump in my breast. My blood ran cold, and I visited my GP the next day. I was referred for tests and my husband and I received the news that I had breast cancer. We we were devastated.
“That was just the start of it though – 18 months later, after suffering severe back pain, I was diagnosed with a secondary cancer and was now being considered for palliative care.
“I had a lumpectomy within two weeks of my initial diagnosis, and I hoped that I would only need radiotherapy without having a course of chemotherapy too. I thought I could hide everything from my four children. I could not bear the thought of turning their lives upside down and didn’t want to worry them.
“After my secondary cancer diagnosis, I had a major back operation and further radiotherapy and was put on immunotherapy and hormone treatments.
“The hardest part of this time is how it has mentally affected us. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be here to see my kids grow up. I would get very emotional and struggled to find anyone to talk to about it all. I’m just a mum who wants to make as many memories as possible with my family. I have learnt that it’s the small things in life that are the most important.
“Over lockdown, I stayed at home with three of my children while my husband, Simon, and my youngest, Zachary (3), moved out as I was shielding. Counselling has been limited this year because of coronavirus, so I had to hide my anxiety and feelings from my children. I really wish I had been referred to Cancer Focus NI sooner. Alison has been my lifeline.
“The counselling service is invaluable to people like me. I speak with Alison regularly and she encourages me to be positive and to focus on the present. I can talk about anything, especially things that are hard to discuss with my family or friends.
“After a session with Alison, I feel like a weight has been lifted. She allows me freedom to express myself and to let out any fears or tears that have been building up.
“I still experience pain and extreme tiredness; however, the mental aspect is the hardest thing to deal with. I have learnt to take things one day at a time, but sometimes, something triggers a thought of the future and what it may hold for myself and my family. Without Alison’s guidance and kind words, I really don’t know where I would be right now.
“Life is harder now of course, but I put on a brave face for my four children. Cancer has robbed us of a lot, especially peace of mind. I can’t see too far into our future as I can only plan as far as the next scan.
“My husband and children know that I love them, and I will keep fighting to stay with them. Right now, my oldest is 15 years old and my youngest is 3 years old. However long I live, it will never be long enough.
“Thank you for reading my cancer story. Please choose to support the Cancer Focus NI Counselling service if you can this Christmas. Your donation will allow local people like me to speak with amazing counsellors like Alison.”
Your Christmas gift of £20 today, or whatever you can afford, to support a 1-hour counselling session, could help your neighbours, friends or family should they ever find themselves in Laura’s position.
With your support today, another local person could receive the care of a Counsellor like Alison this Christmas and into 2021.