Although my partner Liz and I were aware of St Luke’s Hospice, it wasn’t somewhere either of us had ever visited, and we considered ourselves fortunate that we’d never had any need to use its services. However, in June of last year, all that changed when following a routine mammogram, Liz was found to have breast cancer.

Thankfully, her cancer was caught very early, but whatever you might think you know about the Big C, until it comes into your life like a runaway train, nothing prepares you for just how devastating, terrifying and life altering it is. Following her mastectomy, Liz was referred to St Luke’s by her Macmillan Breast Care Nurse – Jane Murray – for a course of complementary therapies, as she felt that Liz would benefit from this, especially as she was about to start chemotherapy.

Any preconceived ideas we may have had about the word ‘hospice’ were simply blown away by friendly, welcoming staff, and an overall feeling of wellbeing and calm that seems to be present wherever you are in St Luke’s. What really surprised me, is the ethos that the client isn’t treated in isolation – their carers are equally important. So while Liz was enjoying and benefiting from reflexology and reiki sessions with Linda, I sat in the comfortable day lounge, very much looked after by Dorothy (our named Nurse), who was just brilliant and made me laugh a lot but who is also great listener. Tea, biscuits and cheerful conversation were also provided by Joan and Ann, two of St Luke’s wonderful volunteers.

Liz has started a Fit Start programme, initiated by St Luke’s physiotherapist, designed to help build up her stamina, ready for her to return to work, and is also under the care of Pauline the Lymphoedema Nurse. My complementary therapies course started in March. The support we’ve had from St Luke’s has been a vital part of the recovery process for both of us.

There is life after Cancer and St Luke’s is helping us to start living it again.