A day in the life of Breast Cancer Haven

A day in the life of Breast Cancer Haven

Originally published in July-August 2004 icon

Breast Cancer Haven outside

Breast Cancer Haven was opened by Prince Charles in February 2000 (the Hereford one in January 2004), and 1,900 visitors have been helped since then.

It is the only breast cancer charity providing a free, personalised, holistic programme of treatment and support for those affected by breast cancer.

If you are living with breast cancer, a visit to one of these centres can literally change your life.

Expert medical and nutritional advice, and healing therapies, are administered in relaxing surroundings.

There’s fun and laughter in the group sessions, and, what’s more, your first 12 complementary therapy sessions are free!

Report by Melanie Hart

 

 

10:00am

 

 

 

Haven regulars start arriving and head off for shiatsu and qigong sessions, or one-to-one sessions with a counsellor, breast care nurse, medical herbalist or homeopath. There’s a two-hour art therapy session with Camilla Connell every Thursday, and a hair and make-up workshop with Patrick Swan one Friday morning a month.

 

Therapies director Caroline Hoffman welcomes all seven new visitors enrolled on this week’s two-day Haven foundation programme and supporters. All the women will be given an overview of the opportunities for both support and education that the Haven provides. At the end of the two days they can meet with Caroline to agree and book their 12 free therapy sessions. After that some group classes cost £3 per person.

 

10:10am

Breaking the ice... everyone introduces themselves and tells their story before Barbara Siddall, senior group therapist, explains and demonstrates how to meditate and relax. The demonstration is so successful that one woman falls asleep...

 

 

11.15am - 12pm

Relatives and supporters are taken into a separate room to talk over their feelings, and learn how they can help. "My first visit to the Haven was very emotional," recalls Isadora. "I was in the middle of my chemo and my boyfriend came on the Haven programme with me. I was more worried about him than myself, but the group session helped him talk about how he felt."

 

 

Haven inside

 

 

12:00pm

 

 

 

Clinical nutritionist Sarah Lumley gives an excellent no-nonsense talk on what to eat to enhance immunity, digestion and energy. She (like ICON’s Chris Woollams) suggests plenty of preferably organic seasonal fruit and veg; essential fatty acids (raw pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, almonds, oily fish, flaxseed oil): high fibre foods (beans, pulses, lentils, apples and whole grains); anti-oxidant foods (brazils and brown rice for selenium, root ginger, eggs and parsley for zinc, and broccoli, berries and peppers for vitamin C). and to drink plenty of filtered water "What about chocolate?" asks one woman hopefully.Yes, as an occasional treat - but preferably a good organic one. Sighs of relief all round.

 

 

12-2pm

Everyone streams down to the basement coffee shop where volunteers have prepared nutritious soups and dairy-free dishes. Even die-hard refined carbohydrate fans agree that the organic food is "much tastier than imagined" and no one leaves hungry.

 

1:00pm

Christopher Woodward runs his auricular acupuncture sessions until 2pm every Thursday and Hilary Austin teaches the Alexander Technique between 1-3pm on Fridays.

 

 

1:30pm

Its been an emotional counselling session for Sally - her third. "These sessions have been a lifeline for me,’ she admits. "I separated from my husband at the same time as I was diagnosed with breast cancer, so I’ve had an emotional aftermath which hasn’t helped my situation. But coming here has helped me to talk through all the emotional and physical problems."

 

2:15 - 4:15pm

Much laughter resounds around the Haven foyer. Twelve women aged between 25 and 70 are enjoying a weekly Look Good...Feel Better session in the library, where beauty consultants from the charity are showing women how to disguise the effects of chemotherapy, and face the world with confidence. "Make-up departments can be intimidating places, especially if you’re wearing a wig,"says Gaby. ’But I’ve really enjoyed this afternoon because everyone’s in the same situation, and a little make-up can help you feel a bit better"

 

 

 

Haven inside

 

 

2:30pm

 

 

 

Jill emerges from her shiatsu session. "I came in here today suffering road rage," she confesses. "But I felt the warmth from Olivia Edwards’ hands, focussed on that feeling and am very relaxed now."

 

3:00pm

Anne has just had her last session with clinical nutritionist Sarah Lumley. "My main reason for coming here was to get my stamina and health back as quickly as possible after chemotherapy." she says, "and I’m very happy with the supplements and advice I’ve been given. I have cut down on dairy products and am eating more fruit and veg. ’think I can help myself now."

 

3:30pm

Gosia Gorma’s Thursday 90-minute mind/body therapy groups bring everything into the open. "Mind/body changed my life," stresses Isadora. "I was very depressed and feeling really ugly when I first came, but speaking to other ladies and sharing experiences - about wanting to feel sexy again, or hating our tummies - is helping me so much."

 

4:15pm

Caroline, a regular visitor, leaves after the beauty session looking great and feeling even better. "One of the best things things I’ve learnt here is bow to use the visualisetion techniques that Barbara (Siddall) taught me" she says. "It’s so boring lying in a horrible great machine having a MRI scan, but time went really quickly during my last one because I closed my eyes and took myself off on a walk to Kew Gardens. saw the daffodils and crocuses, and still had so much to see when the scan finished.

 

 

 

Haven inside

 

 

4:30pm

 

 

 

The foundation programme visitors set off home, clutching a comprehensive folder with helpful advice and explanations of all the therapies the Haven offers (including yoga. reiki, craniosacral therapy, aromatberapy, Indian head massage, hands-on-healing. reflexology, pampering workshops). There’s even a section with top 10 tips, including drinking rosemary tea with grated/sliced fresh ginger to improve low spirits and a poor memory.

 

5:00pm

ALL other sessions draw to a close, as do the Haven’s front doors.

 

 

Overnight cleaners work hard to keep the Haven in the pristine-but-homely condition that everyone knows and loves. The answerphone clicks in at regular intervals to give out contact details to people with urgent enquiries that just can’t wait until the next day...

Log onto their website: http://www.breastcancerhaven.org.uk for detailed information on the registered charity and how to make donations.

You can also contact Breast Cancer Haven on 020 7384 0099 and The Hereford Haven on 07432 361061.

Or by email via: info@breastcancerhaven.org.uk.

Reg. Charity No. 1061726

Breast Cancer Haven
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