Esther Parkinson

Esther Parkinson

Choosing to have my treatment at The Christie was the best decision I ever made

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2013. It’s a date that will always stick in my mind, and sometimes still feels like yesterday. Diagnosis day was a very dark day.

Anyone who has been affected by cancer, directly or indirectly will know the impact it has on your life. Not just yours but others around you too. It turns your world upside down and rips up the rule book on emotions and how you should feel. You don’t know where to put yourself, what to do, what to say, whether to cry, whether to shout etc. It sends your head completely into a spin.

I was diagnosed at my local hospital in Blackpool. At the time, my mum and my sister were with me when I received the news. We went home that day, very quiet and caught up in our own thoughts.

Fortunately for me, my sister is a consultant oncologist (in Cambridge) and a few days later, she recommended The Christie as a place to have my treatment. Although I’d vaguely heard of The Christie, I wasn’t aware of its renowned reputation and the brilliant work it does. So for me, I was weighing up having my treatment just 15 minutes down the road in Blackpool, versus travelling more than an hour each way to Manchester every time.

My head was still scrambled at that point, as I was still trying to deal with the news of my diagnosis. So in my eyes, the less travel involved, the better - especially if I was feeling unwell due to the treatment. I wasn’t focusing on the important bit, which was where would be the best place to have treatment.

Lengthy discussions took place with my sister, and thankfully she put her foot down and insisted that I go to The Christie. She explained all the reasons why and highlighted that it was a specialist cancer hospital and was not only the number one hospital in the North West, but the best in the country. I couldn’t really argue against that, so I agreed to go The Christie.

It was the best decision I was ever to make.

Upon walking through the doors of The Christie, it instantly feels welcoming and has a friendly feel that I’ve never experienced in any other hospital.

All the professionals and staff always make you feel like an individual, they genuinely want to help you get better, and help make the journey as stress-free as possible. They are obviously aware that you are going through a traumatic time, and there is always someone to speak to or hold your hand (physically as well as metaphorically).

I have a phobia of needles, and the very sight of one (and even talking about it at times) sends me white and wobbly! Apart from the obvious diagnosis, having to have treatment intravenously was my worst nightmare come true, not to mention all the blood tests required. They all involved a dreaded needle. It was just unthinkable, and I had no way of getting past how I would cope.

On my first treatment day, I mentioned my phobia to the chemo team and they made a referral there and then to the complementary therapies team. Within about half an hour someone came to see me, and started talking me through some cognitive behavioural therapy techniques and ways to try to relax to cope with the forthcoming treatment. They were extremely helpful and patient with me, and although stress levels were still quite high, they had reduced somewhat by the time it came to chemo time.

On the following treatment day, I was visited once again by the complementary therapies team, and again they talked me through some more relaxation techniques. This time they gave me an aromatherapy stick to sniff (a bit like a Vicks inhaler but with aromatherapy vapours) when I was feeling anxious, and explained how to associate this with pleasant experiences and happy times. This proved to be a successful technique and helped make the treatment a calmer experience for me.

The following few treatments I learnt to cope without help from staff, using the techniques I had been shown together with the aromatherapy stick. It was a genius invention but such a simple one too. As my treatments were coming to an end, I was just about managing my phobia. What started out as something I couldn’t even comprehend going through, ended up being something I could just about cope with, without passing out!! This is thanks to the wonderful help of the complementary therapies team.

My penultimate treatment was on Christmas Eve. I had mixed feelings about coming in the day before Christmas. But actually, it turned out to be a really lovely day. The staff were very upbeat, with their Christmas hats on, and it was a positive place to be (as it always is). I remember being offered a foot massage that day, which I happily accepted, and treated it as a little Christmas present! This was another marvellous relaxation technique and I pretty much sailed through my chemo that day. Another one ticked off the list and without any dramas too.

I can’t fault any of the staff at The Christie. All the nurses were brilliant with me. They were always very approachable and introduced themselves at all times. They had a great bedside manner, offered advice when needed and listened to me whenever I had any questions about my treatment. Most of all, they treated me like a normal human being, and not just a number. They would happily chat with me about everyday stuff, whilst carrying out their duties and looking after me.

Everyone at The Christie is fabulous, from the volunteers, to the porters, to the nurses, to the doctors and the administration staff. There is always a smile on a face and a helping hand whenever it’s needed.

The Christie has never felt like a hospital to me. As many people have said before – it’s like a second home - and I will always be comfortable visiting the place. The corridors are filled with positivity, despite so much illness being around.

It just goes to show that The Christie is a place that really does care, discover and teach.

August 2017