Feature: Making the most of life with cancer
Claire Molyneux values every single day.
The 49-year-old, who lives with her family in Hunters Bar, in Sheffield, was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in the spine and hip in April 2015.
“I was devastated by my diagnosis,” reveals the mum-of-two.
“I’d gone through breast cancer three years earlier. The cancer coming back was my worst fear come true.
“Although the cancer is being treated with hormone therapy, it’s horrible knowing your life is limited when you’re in your forties.”
Claire is one of a growing group of people living with cancer that is incurable but treatable.
These people can live for years with their cancer being controlled by a range of treatments such as hormone therapy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy in a way that would not have been possible 40 years ago. With the number of people living with cancer across Sheffield set to increase, Macmillan Cancer Support is keen to help people like Claire to have the best possible quality of life.
Claire was supported to take part in Macmillan Active Everyday, a physical activity programme that helps to make it easier for people affected by cancer in Sheffield to be physically active. Active Everyday looks at both the physical and emotional benefits of physical activity, trainers listen to the person affected by cancer and tailor activity to suit them and their individual situation.
“When I was first diagnosed with my secondary breast cancer I was told I couldn’t do any high impact exercise,” says Claire.
“I really missed doing exercise because I used to do badminton, Zumba and running.
“I felt totally hopeless. Everyone was telling me what I couldn’t do anymore.
“I heard about Active Everyday and went to see them, I thought ‘halleluiah’ finally I was talking about what I could do, rather than what I couldn’t. I was supported to take part in physical activity that suited me by a trainer that knew and understood all about my cancer.
“It had an effect on more than just exercise, it made me think there was loads more I could be doing with my life. The effect has been transformational for me - and I don’t use that word lightly.
“I’m taking each day as it comes but I value my life loads and am living to the full while I can.”
There is a growing body of evidence that now shows physical activity not only helps manage the often devastating consequences of cancer treatment - such as fatigue, depression and heart damage - but also helps to reduce the risk of the disease worsening, recurring or causing death in people living with cancer.
Macmillan Cancer Support recommends physical activity as part of a patient’s recovery package and wants to ensure every person affected by cancer in Sheffield can access physical activity support.
Macmillan has recently committed £6 million across South Yorkshire to improve support for people living with and beyond cancer. The Macmillan Living With And Beyond Cancer Programme is a partnership between Macmillan and the region’s NHS Commissioners Working Together programme.
Richard Metcalfe, programme lead for the Macmillan Living With And Beyond Cancer Programme, says: “We know that thousands of people in Sheffield are living with or beyond cancer and, while it is not always life-ending, it is life-changing.
“After cancer it can be daunting to start physical activity again, and the Active Everyday team understand this. The team work with nurses at Sheffield Teaching Hospital so patients can feel confident that trainers understand their personal situation.
“Macmillan’s partnership with the NHS in Sheffield wants to ensure that support is tailored around the person affected by cancer and that everyone diagnosed will receive this high quality care by 2020.”
Active Everyday is funded by Macmillan Cancer Support and is a partnership between Sheffield Hallam University, National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine in Sheffield, and Sport England. Macmillan have committed to spending a potential £6,260,806 over the next five years as part of the regional partnership.
You can contact Active Everyday to set up an introductory chat about your cancer experience, expectations and goals. The team will work with you, exploring physical activity opportunities in your area, and will then design a physical activity programme specifically for you.
Email Active Everyday on [email protected] or call Liam on 0114 225 5645 for details.
Dot’s Active Life:
Sheffield grandma Dot Kesterton, of Bents Green, has always loved running, but was worried her beloved hobby would have to be put on hold when, in January 2014, a routine mammogram revealed she had an aggressive form of breast cancer.
“It turns out though, that running was one of the most helpful things in supporting my mental, emotional and physical health during my treatment,” says Dot.
“I began walking as soon as I felt able to after my operation and, eventually, would even run to my radiotherapy treatments. Having cancer hasn’t stopped me being active and in many ways I’m more active now than before because I appreciate the importance of keeping healthy.”