“This time last year, life seemed as normal as ever. I was going about my work and family life as usual. I’d had a couple of worrying ‘lumps’ but had been sent away from doctors telling me not to worry. So with reassurance from family, I tried not to worry and went on a planned holiday to Lanzarote with my husband and children. We all know of stories about health where women say, ‘I know my own body and I just know that something isn’t right.’ This was the start of my nightmare journey.

During our holiday in Lanzarote, I knew that something was wrong when I applied suntan lotion and my hand slipped away from where I had expected muscle and tissue to be. I really started to worry. On returning from holiday I went to my GP, and in a bit of a daze was referred quickly to various hospital appointments. In August 2012 I was told ‘it’s Cancer Sarah’.

Aged 39, this was devastating news. I cannot describe to anyone how this feels. Part of me can’t remember what happened for many weeks. I was rigid with fear. Anything that people said to me I’d turn into the worse possible scenario in my head. So many things rushed through my mind: ‘I’m riddled with it. How do I tell mum and dad? What about my children?’ I was allocated a Macmillan nurse. I couldn’t believe this. ‘People with Cancer see Macmillan nurses, why have I got one?’ My nurse could see how bad things were for me and she referred me to St Luke’s for complementary therapy. I was shocked. ‘Why would I go to a Hospice? People go there to die. How will this help me feel better when I feel so bad already?’ I’d never had any need to go to St Luke’s before. I was scared, angry and resentful that I was being associated with Cancer.

When I arrived at St Luke’s I was taken through into the Hospice lounge. All that I could focus on was that the few people I had seen clearly looked ill. I hadn’t noticed the majority of other people in and around the Hospice who didn’t look ill. I got into a bit of a state. Dot from the Day Hospice came and met me and I sobbed my heart out. My first session was with Pauline for reflexology (hocus pocus in my mind). Little did I know that the power of complementary therapies would make such a difference at a time when my life felt so out of control. Over the coming weeks I also had some hypnotherapy to help relax me when I started chemotherapy.

Coming to St Luke’s has helped me get used to the fact that I have Cancer and that it is okay to see people who have Cancer. My chemo and treatments took place on Mondays, and although they took everything out of me, I made my mum and dad promise to drag me to St Luke’s on Wednesdays. The emotional and physical health benefits from attending St Luke’s have been vast.

I am still on a journey and I worry every day. I made a promise to not get upset in front of the children. I’ve pushed forward for the children. It’s hard to sum up what St Luke’s is or does. St Luke’s doesn’t just look after those coming to the end of their lives, it looks after those who are able and need to carry on. To celebrate how far I’ve come (and to do what I can for St Luke’s) friends, family and I did the Midnight Walk this year. I am thrilled to say that we raised over £1,000 for St Luke’s. Thank you to everyone who helped me to fundraise for St Luke’s. The Hospice really has kept me alive.”