A cancer survivor whisked in for an operation the day the first lockdown was announced is now backing a hospice’s fundraising campaign.
It was while on holiday in Greece in September 2019 that Diane Attwell first discovered something was wrong.
The 64-year-old, from Great Haywood, said: “I was away on a special holiday in Naxos when, three days into the holiday, I woke up with a pain under my arm. I found a lump and knew I had a problem.
“On returning from my holiday, I went to my doctors. That Friday, I was at Spire Hospital at Little Aston, Sutton Coldfield and was told that I had stage two breast cancer. Treatment started the first week of November.
“Chemo was very hard. What I didn’t know, and I’m sure others don’t, is just how it affects every part of you.”
Diane had an operation on March 23, the day the first national lockdown was announced.
“I was rushed through as they were worried all operations would be put on hold,” she said. “I wanted to have an implant, but my surgeon would not put the implant in as he was worried about infection and putting me at risk.”
The surgeon removed Diane’s breast, leaving the breast skin so the implant could go in later. The drain was in for about 12 hours and she was sent home the next day.
Her radiotherapy started at the end of April, and she had 15 sessions.
“I’d complained about the pain in my left arm to be told it was just fluid,” added Diane. “While attending radiotherapy, another patient told me I had lymphoedema.”
She was referred to her doctor, who passed on her details to lymphoedema nurse Mel Cotterill at Katharine House Hospice in Stafford.
“My first contact with her was a Zoom call, she was amazing. I sat with my husband and cried,” she recalled.
“I felt Mel came out of that computer screen and held me. She told me I could email her any time and she would get back to me. Up until that moment, I had not had any proper support.
“It felt like she tucked me under her arm and I knew I would be OK. She listens to me and she lets me pour it all out as to how I feel. She then looks into my sad eyes with her kind eyes and puts things into perspective.
“She points me to the right person so I get the best support. She is my angel and I truly don’t know what I’d do if I lost her – I could not do without her support and care.
“Mel put me forward for well-being courses with ‘Blonde Mel’ (senior staff nurse Melanie Mottram). And wow, what another wonderful lady. So caring and again reassuring.
“She calls and checks in on me she listens and helps me look at things more positively. I cannot believe I have these two wonderful ladies in my life.”
Knowing of the Katharine House Hospice emergency appeal, which launched in September as a result of the coronavirus, Diane is keen to share her experience and tell people of their vital work.
She said: “It’s not until you need this level of support that you realise just how important Katharine House is. It’s a lifeline to people who are suffering or dying.
“It’s not just there for the terminally ill. It’s there for people fighting their way back. It’s there also for families whose loved ones don’t recover.
“Without places like Katharine House, these families would be so alone to deal with the traumas of losing a loved one.
“Without financial support, Katharine House cannot be there for people who truly need it the most.
“Katharine House has given me the belief I can get through this. I was so lost and Mel has helped me on my journey to find me again.
“I was very scared to use Katharine House at first, because I saw it as a place where life ends. I don’t want mine to end. It sounds hard but that’s how I thought, probably because I lost my daughter-in-law to cancer 12 years ago.
“Now the charity is my lifeline. They are making me stronger and helping me improve my lymphoedema. Katharine House helps make me stronger minded to deal with the traumas I have had to face. I can’t thank them enough.”
Mary Worsdale, marketing and communications at the hospice, said: “It’s due to the generosity of people giving to our emergency campaign that we can continue to provide specialist care for people like Diane.”
To donate to Katharine House Hospice’s emergency fund, which currently stands at more than £545,000 of their £1 million goal, visit justgiving.com/campaign/savekhhospice.