About Us - Our Journey Stories

MEL’S STORY

How Butterflies came to Dorchester

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2014. To be told the words ‘you have cancer’ was without doubt the most terrifying thing that had ever happened to me. From then on it was a round of hospital appointments, tests, operations, more tests, waiting for results (which has to be the worst of all) and so on. My imagination ran riot and it was left to my partner and daughter to reign it all back into proportion. I could not even say the word cancer or read any of the information that was given me by Dorchester Hospital. I did not want anyone to know, as I knew I would have to face their pitying looks and I wasn’t ready for that yet. I felt extremely isolated even though family rallied round when told. It did not even occur to me to join a support group then.

To be told the words ‘you have cancer’ was without doubt the most terrifying thing that had ever happened to me.

Whilst going through treatment I had the breast care nurses, radiologists and oncologists etc to explain, guide and reassure me, which was hugely important to my state of mind, but once this was finished I was out there on my own and this was when I found it really difficult to cope. I did think about maybe joining a support group but most of them were in the evening and as I live outside Dorchester I did not want to be driving at night.

It’s amazing how quickly you get used to going for radiotherapy every day. You see a lot of the same people. On my last day one of the ladies in the waiting room who knew this was the last one said “are you going to go and celebrate”. I was stumped as I didn’t know how to feel, I certainly wasn’t bouncing off the ceiling with joy I just felt confused and a bit lost & unsure of what next. Friends and family think you should just put it behind you and just slot back into your old life but unfortunately it doesn’t always work like that. Until a person has walked in someone’s shoes with cancer they have no idea how difficult this can be.

Being on hormone therapy and fearing reoccurrence 24/7 does not make for a healthy mind, and six months later I had a bit of a meltdown and so rang my cancer nurse. I was angry and frustrated that there was not much help out there, or at least I was not informed straight after treatment which was when it was really needed. This was the turning point as she was able to reassure me about certain things, but also we started talking about getting some help. She gave me information about Macmillan Advocacy, Steps to Wellbeing, complimentary therapy at the Weldmar Hospice in Dorchester and local support groups. The group that stood out was The Living Tree in Bridport.

I contacted Macmillan Advocacy and found that extremely helpful as I was able to talk to someone who had been through the same as I had. I also had CBT counselling at Steps to Wellbeing which was a huge step forward for me.

I looked on the Living Tree website and was really excited at what the group had to offer. It was exactly what I was looking for but the only drawback for me was that it was in Bridport on a Friday afternoon and so a bit far for me to travel. I contacted Jo O’Farrell at the Living Tree to see if there was any likelihood that they would be expanding to Dorchester. Unfortunately for me there wasn’t but Jo explained that if someone was willing to set one up in Dorchester they would love to give their advice and support and so, with the encouragement of my counsellor, an idea was forming.

Jo O’Farrell put me in touch with a fabulous group of women who went to The Living Tree but who would love to have something in Dorchester as it was closer to home. We all had the same idea about how we wanted Butterflies to be, and that was along the same lines as the Living Tree.

We wanted Butterflies to be for people with any form of cancer rather than one specific type.

We wanted Butterflies to be for people with any form of cancer rather than one specific type, as when diagnosed we all pretty much have the same thoughts and feelings; or for people who had previously had cancer but still needed support. Family and friends are also welcome as it is sometimes very difficult for them to understand, or be understood, so a support group can be very beneficial for them too.

We have a positive backing from Poole Hospital and Dorchester County Hospital, as well as Macmillan – they have just awarded us a start-up grant. Also through these organisations we have speakers, advisors and access to a wealth of information. We have one therapist on board who gives free sessions, and we are in the process of enlisting a few more from the Dorchester area for complimentary therapies. We aim to do various workshops on a regular basis and we have a counsellor who will drop in from time to time to give support. Boots have also offered to run a free make-over session for our members. We would like to get as many professionals on board as possible as this really makes a difference to people’s wellbeing.