During my first breast cancer experience I was living overseas. Although I was a patient at a breast clinic attached to a large hospital in a university town of some 205,000 people, telephone support was not available.
My second breast cancer experience was here in Australia, and I was very fortunate to find out about Counterpart. I didn’t need assistance with my diagnosis or treatment options, but I found the chats with the Peer Support Volunteer invaluable. When I answered my phone and heard her warm and cheery voice my mood lifted. Our conversations were often the only chance I had to let off steam or to drop the facade I was presenting to my family and friends. It was wonderful to have someone on the end of the phone who understood. Sometimes it is very trying having people close to you reminding you to be positive and think of others who are even more ill. I was able to tell my Peer Support Volunteer that I was having a shocking day and felt like hiding from the world. There was no judgment and no jollying along by this very sensitive woman. She just let me get it off my chest and did occasionally make a suggestion to help me to navigate my family if she thought that may help or suggesting coping strategies I had not yet considered.
I would encourage other women with cancer to reach out to a Peer Support Volunteer to see if these chats may assist you with the multitude of questions, anxieties, decisions and other related issues a diagnosis of cancer throws at you. It is a service that may not be the answer for everyone, but in my experience at the time I was feeling most vulnerable, it certainly helped me and gave me a completely confidential, anonymous place where I could just be my ‘real’ self. I thankfully did not require the service over a long period, but the sincerity and warmth of the volunteer and her honesty helped me to get through a very difficult time and find some hope for the future.