Caroline noticed a small lump in one of her breasts whilst taking a shower in 2011, but didn’t think too much of it. However after a routine investigation, Caroline was devastated to find out that she had stage 1 breast cancer at the age of 47 – the type of breast cancer that grows rapidly.
Caroline underwent all her treatment at London Bridge Hospital; initially surgery to remove the lump, followed by chemotherapy and then radiotherapy. Caroline’s treatment unfortunately brought on the menopause which affected her very intensely as, due to the different drugs, all the symptoms came on at once. Before her diagnosis, Caroline had been a keen runner. However, due to the menopause her joints became too painful to continue running, something which affected her body confidence. The onset of the menopause also took away her libido. Caroline’s cancer wasn’t hormone related meaning she was eligible for Hormone Replacement Therapy and this she feels absolutely saved her life. Once she started HRT, all the unwelcome symptoms associated with the menopause faded away and the oestrogen now pumping around her body brought her mojo back.
At only 47 and still single, Caroline says she felt as though she was the only woman on the chemo ward who was still sexually active, and her sex life was an important part of her - this made her feel very alone. For most of her treatment, Caroline didn't mention how she was feeling, but during her last chemo session she happened to mention this to one of the nurses who gave her the card of Emma Waring, Psychosexual Nurse Therapist. As a London Bridge Hospital patient, Caroline was entitled to four complimentary counselling sessions with Emma as part of the hospital’s holistic approach to care. Caroline gave Emma a call when she felt ready and describes that ‘it was the best thing for me. It really helped me to move on.’ Getting back to physical fitness Now, though she feels pretty much back to normal, Caroline admits she still has days where she feels a bit shaky and, while she manages to sort herself out, she feels it’s really helpful to know Emma is there should she need to go back for some top-up sessions. Now cancer-free, Caroline feels it’s really important for breast cancer sufferers to know that this sort of service is available to them. ‘Your sex life is hit tremendously because of what happens to you, and your body image’ she explains, ‘it completely throws you, everything stops. People in marriages have a different sort of relationship but as a single girl, my relationships weren’t that close so it was a very different situation.’
Emma qualified from St Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1992 as a registered general nurse, and went on to specialise in cardiac nursing. In 2001 she obtained a degree in critical care nursing from King’s College before moving to a specialist nursing role at Guys and St Thomas’, and setting up a clinic to specifically treat erectile dysfunction in cardiac patients. This work has been presented both nationally and internationally. In 2011, Emma joined London Bridge Hospital as a Psychosexual Nurse Therapist and set up a psychosexual therapy service for patients or couples experiencing sexual difficulties and/or relationship problems. Here, Emma can offer patients up to four complimentary counselling sessions as part of the hospital’s holistic approach to care.
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