Getting information and support from Cancer Research UK - Wendy's story
Two and a half years ago Wendy Loder was diagnosed with melanoma. Since then, she has used both this website and the Information Nurse team at Cancer Research UK for information and support.
I was constantly tired even after getting plenty of sleep, so went to see my GP. They ordered a range of blood tests but the results were normal. This was surprising because I felt so washed out and thought I was probably anaemic. My GP was convinced there was something wrong with me. She asked again if there was anything unusual and I told her about the mole on my leg getting bigger. I explained I hadn’t mentioned it before as it had been checked out a couple of years earlier. A punch biopsy had shown it was a normal mole. The GP decided to send me to see a skin specialist (a dermatologist) anyway.
It’s just skin cancer
The mole was removed at the skin clinic. Two weeks later I went back for the results. The dermatologist and a plastic surgeon explained I had skin cancer – a malignant melanoma. My eldest daughter just burst into tears. I am not sure if she knew what a melanoma was but I think she heard the word cancer and assumed I was going to die especially as my diagnosis came after I had lost my mother and mother in law to different cancers.
I was actually quite relaxed about it all. I thought, "Skin cancer, that’s all right – it's only a mole". Even when the plastic surgeon talked about a skin graft, I didn’t really understand how grave my situation was. It was only when I had a chat with my clinical nurse specialist, Lucy, that it really dawned on me. She explained that malignant melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. Then it hit me like a sledgehammer. I was given 2 leaflets in the hospital – one with some brief information about melanoma and one about the next steps with surgery and a skin graft.
Finding the information I needed
When I got home and told my husband and youngest daughter, they went to pieces. I hadn’t really thought about how my cancer would affect the whole family. The leaflets the hospital had given me just didn’t explain enough. So, I got onto the computer and from a Google search found CancerHelp UK. From this site I got every bit of information I needed. I also discovered I could contact the information nurses and encouraged my youngest daughter to talk to them in the days following my diagnosis.
Over the last couple of years I have got a lot more information from CancerHelp UK than I have ever had from the hospital. In the beginning I used it an awful lot. If I had any concerns I would check out the site and it helped me to put my situation into perspective. My family used the site to understand more about melanoma and the surgery I was to have. The section on coping with melanoma was particularly helpful. It explained all the emotions and fears I was experiencing and I looked at it often. I have also emailed the information nurses, especially when I was upset or worried. They helped to calm me down and get through the difficult times.
I have continued to use the website over the last couple of years even though I have been in remission. Now, I have another mole on my leg which is also getting bigger. I am still having 3 monthly check-ups and I have been on CancerHelp UK looking for information for my next appointment in November.
I’ve had 3 work colleagues who’ve been diagnosed with cancer since my diagnosis – 2 with non melanoma skin cancer and one with breast cancer. I’ve recommended CancerHelp UK and the information nurses’ helpline to all of them. One colleague was very tearful after her skin cancer so I printed off a load of information for her from CancerHelp UK. I knew she wouldn’t get much information from the hospital. She later wrote to say how grateful she was, as she felt it showed I cared. I would advise anyone diagnosed with cancer to use both CancerHelp UK and the Cancer Information Nurse service – I found them both absolutely brilliant.
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