A mother-of-five who was told she would have no more children after being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 28 has paid tribute to the care she received at Weston Park Hospital.
Claire Parker-Jewell says that the day she was diagnosed with cancer 11 years ago was when she found out just how strong she was.
“It was the start of a long journey of tests, diagnostics and bone marrow examinations,” she said.
“I had 12 chemotherapy sessions every other week and was losing my hair, all while looking after my three-year-old son.”
Claire was diagnosed with lymphoma the size of a grapefruit in my chest, which had broken her breast bone, and the cancer was also found in her neck, chest nodes, arm pits, lungs and stomach.
“Hearing the words, ‘you have cancer’, is enough to rock you to the core,” said Claire.
“And just when you think you've come to terms with that reality, treatment begins.”
Claire was told that because of her treatment, she wouldn’t be able to have any more children.
However, six months after her last chemotherapy session, Claire became pregnant with her second son Finn and she has now gone on to have three more children.
Now, to mark World Cancer Day, Claire has paid tribute to the care she received at Weston Park Hospital and the cancer information centre run by its charity.
She said: “Feeling good about yourself during cancer treatment can be challenging, especially as your body goes through physical changes, some of which can dramatically change appearance and body image.
“One of these changes may be losing your hair, which at 28, was a huge blow. I immediately bought two wigs that were so real you wouldn’t have been able to tell, and I also bought 100’s of fake eyelashes. It was the little things like this made me feel normal.”
Look Good Feel Better (LGFB) is dedicated to improving the wellbeing of patients undergoing treatment for any sort of cancer and provides extensive support for women, men and young adults.
The two-hour sessions are enjoyable, morale boosting and informative and patients leave laughing, looking fantastic and ready to face the world again.
The LGFB sessions are run by trained beauty volunteers who share their tips and techniques for minimising side-effects such as skin changes, hair, eyebrow and eyelash loss.
“My wigs were my saviour, but they came at a hefty price, so it is fantastic to learn that sessions like LGFB are now being offered to patients, completely free of charge,” said Claire.
“I am thankful for every second that someone was looking after me and for Weston Park Cancer Centre, who I can’t thank enough for all they did.
“Because of them, I am here today to tell my story and because of Weston Park Cancer Charity, more and more patients and their families will have access to the very best in cancer care services.”
Weston Park Cancer Centre supports patients, families and friends, offering a safe place to talk about whatever is on their minds.
“Even though it was a hard journey, I formed life-long friendships and made amazing memories that I will always cherish,” said Claire.
“None of us are certain of our future, so we need to love hard, fight hard and play hard, and make sure our loved ones know how special they are.
“Through cancer, I learnt that whatever life throws my way, I will fight with my every breath.”