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World Cancer Day – Steph’s story

In 2009, Steph Acton was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. This is her story.

Sitting in a room with her husband by her side, it was the moment that Steph had been dreading.

In 2007, she lost her mother to cancer. Steph has witnessed first-hand the toll it took on her mother – the trips to hospital, the gruelling chemotherapy, the change in her appearance.

Now, two years later and sitting across from her consultant, Steph was trying to digest the news.

“In 2009 I was diagnosed with cancer,” Steph said.

“Obviously it was a big shock, not just for me but my family as well. I have three girls and they were all young at the time. My head was all over the place, but I just had to think of them and battle on for their sake.

“It was tough to take, especially after losing my mother to cancer. I really thought I was going to go as well. The thought of leaving my girls and husband was extremely upsetting. My world revolved around them so all I could think about is what would happen to them if I was gone? ”

Steph was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. A million and one things were rushing through her head at the time, but one thing in particular was playing on her mind.

Steph added: “My husband and I were determined not to hide anything from our children, but how do you break something like that to them? It was a balancing act, but I have to say the staff at Christies (one of the UK’s leading cancer treatment hospitals) were amazing. They talked everything through and gave us some advice. We were able to be open and honest with our children in a way that they could understand.

“All the medical staff I had dealings couldn’t have done enough.  I always felt in comfortable hands and they talked me through every step.”

Having seen what her mother had gone through, Steph was understandably worried about treatment. The hope was that by undergoing an operation, Steph would be able to avoid intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment.

However, as the cancer was now at Stage 2, this was no longer an option.

 “Having seen my mum go through it, I knew the treatment would be intense. I’m not going to lie or sugar-coat anything – it was very traumatic and took a lot out of me, but once again, the staff at Christies were brilliant. They suggested some visual hypnotherapy which prepared me for ahead of the chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

“St Luke’s were also fantastic. They offered complimentary therapies such as head massage which helped me relax. I was surrounded by people who were also going through a tough time with cancer so it was good to share our experiences.

“I had to have radiotherapy everyday for 5 weeks and chemo once a week. It was gruelling, but in a way I’m glad that it was over a shorter period of time. I was poorly at the end but at least I could then focus on getting better.

 “I had to wait six months for the results to come through and it was massive relief to know that the treatment was successful. I felt positive, but it took me a while to accept that it was gone.

 “When you are diagnosed, your world feels small for a while and you don’t care about much except for your family. All I wanted was warmth, comfort and my family around me. We’re a tight-knit unit and I believe we are as close as we haver ever been.

“The important thing to remember is that you are not alone, there are people there to support you every step of the way. People talk about the ‘C Word’ like it is some sort of taboo, but no one should be scared to talk about it.”

If you would like to talk to someone about some of the themes in Steph’s story, call Macmillan on 0808 808 00 00 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk

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