I was diagnosed with lymphoma in January 2013. I had attended a local lymphoma support group a couple of times but I didn’t really get anything from it and found it didn’t give me what I needed – although I wasn’t really sure what it was I wanted! After diagnosis, you have to come to terms with what’s going on in your life and find your new norm - whatever that may be.
I then heard about the new Live your Life programme and signed up for a workshop. When you’re home and alone, those closest to you don’t always understand what you’re going through, even with the greatest of intentions. At the Live your Life workshops everyone knows what you’ve been through and you don’t have to explain yourself because someone has already been there. The workshops help you feel less alone and show you that there are people out there going through the same or similar experience. When people start talking, you can see there are a lot of common threads to people’s experiences and that commonality helps.
I used to work as an educator and facilitator and although I took early retirement after finishing treatment, I still felt like I had something to give. Training as a Live your Life facilitator allowed me to get my brain working again and I feel very privileged to run these workshops now with the support of Lymphoma Action.
The Live your Life workshops really allow people to reflect. People are usually prepared to share their story and that helps others validate how their feeling without being told what they should feel. Others in the room 'get it' straight away and there is a huge sense of freedom in that. Attendees can be at different stages of their ‘lymphoma journey’ and that means they can help each other. There might be something someone knows because they are farther along the line.
I remember being incredibly touched by one woman’s story. She had attended with her husband and was well supported. She was a teacher and had tried to return to work but found she couldn’t. She broke down telling her story. She felt like she couldn’t do anything else, but wanted to, she was afraid to try because she was frightened of failure. Her diagnosis and subsequent experience had really knocked her confidence. Everyone likes to feel valued, especially if you have worked all your life and aren’t used to ‘sitting around’. Through these workshops, we are helping to facilitate the change process and giving people the tools to help themselves.
Lymphoma is not a high profile cancer, but maybe I can offer some insight and help people – not just tell people stuff as there’s enough of that when you see your medical team. The Live your Life workshops offer people a safe place to explore how they feel, how they might feel about the future, how to gain control….and all with like-minded people. It’s uplifting really.