For these five women diagnosed with breast cancer, simple acts of kindness have helped them through the toughest times, when morale was low and every day a battle against the sickness brought on by chemo.
Their stories show that even the simplest of things like checking up on loved ones, making dinner for friends or writing to colleagues with cancer can make the world of difference.
Take inspiration from these heartwarming stories and, if you know someone undergoing cancer treatment currently, why not do something lovely for them?
He was the wee positive voice I didn't know I needed, when I'd shut everyone else out."
Claire-Ann McCallum-Thomson, 38, was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2014. She lived alone throughout treatment and would lock herself away from the outside world after each round of chemotherapy because it left her feeling so ill.
Her only contact with the outside world during that time was her postman Paul, who checked on her most days – even when she didn’t have mail.
“I met Paul the postie, after I started ordering random things online,” the systems security manager from Dalkeith, Scotland, tells HuffPost UK. “He was like: ‘What have you been ordering now?’”
“He had noticed when I answered the door that I had a little hat on and asked if I was okay, I told him about my diagnosis and he had family that had also been diagnosed with breast cancer.”
Paul knew she lived by herself and that she didn’t get many visitors during her chemo weeks, so he would often knock and check on her during his rounds “just to see how I was and say hello”.
The 38-year-old says she was always very grateful for the interaction: “It doesn’t seem like much, but it made a difference to me.”
He came over with a personalised red velvet cake. It made my week."
Dancer and business owner Leanne Pero, 33, was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2016. At one point during treatment she felt incredibly nauseous and, as a result, low in mood. But that didn’t last long.
One day a close friend surprised her by turning up to her home, telling her to get dressed and taking her out for some fresh air.
“He drove me to my healthy juice shop, purchased me a litre of my favourite juice,” she recalls. “He then did the same the next day. Then on the third day he came over with a personalised red velvet cake. It made my week and I actually felt better until my next chemo.”
She adds that while she was ill, three close friends stepped in to run her business - The Movement Factory - for her. Another friend swapped her shifts around so she could stay with Pero during treatment.
We’d had to cancel a trip to Australia and New Zealand...our friends tried to make up for it."
Jenny Rainger, 39, and her husband Ben, 44, had to cancel a trip to Australia and New Zealand following her breast cancer diagnosis in September 2013, as she needed to start chemotherapy.
Luckily for them both they had a great group of friends who rallied around them to offer them a taste of Oz.
The IT administrator, living in Edinburgh, says: “One friend sent us cork hats, Jason Donovan’s Greatest Hits and Priscilla Queen of the Desert; a friend in Sydney ordered Australian flowers; a colleague who left work while I was off sick worked out how to use the Australian post to send a toy koala; and a New Zealand friend sent the Lord of the Rings box set.”
Rainger says she had been feeling really down because she had a cold and was due to have her third chemo session two days after Christmas. It was a far cry from what they’d planned to do: spending Christmas day on a beach abroad.
She says the parcels she received really cheered her up and made her laugh. “All the gifts I received reminded me that I was loved and that my friends cared about me and wanted me to be well again, which was really important when going through such hard treatment.”
My wife Shelley shaved my head for me and let me shave hers after she finished. "
Lorraine Coyle-McLaren, 47, a development manager from Glenboig in Scotland, was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2017. She was undergoing chemotherapy and knew she was going to lose her hair, but felt incredibly apprehensive about it.
When it started to come out in clumps onto her pillow, she knew she had to take charge. “My wife Shelley shaved my head for me and let me shave hers after she finished,” she recalls. “We shaved each other’s hair into lots of styles before the full shave and we laughed and took lots of pictures.
“We still laugh at them now. I loved doing it. Then later into my treatment when I had to shave mine again, so did she. My friends were so supportive and always told me I looked better without my wig, which gave me a lot of confidence.”
It was the positivity and laughter at such a bleak time which made the world of difference. “Shelley showed me how great we can look bald and not to hide away from it,” the 47-year-old adds. “It gave me the confidence to go out and be who I am.”
My work colleague would send me a letter every month."
Kirsteen Pearson, 46, received a letter from her colleague each month following her diagnosis with breast cancer in May 2009. The PA from Glenmavis in Scotland says Anne, who she had worked with for six years, would fill her in on work gossip and keep her up-to-date with personal news.
“My boss let Anne know that I was going to be off work for a while and Anne being Anne, always thinking of others and mothering everyone, decided to write to me every month,” she says.
“I loved hearing about her children and her future grandchildren. It was my escape and for a short time I could feel normal. Not once did she mention cancer or chemo or hospital appointments, she was just her lovely self.”
Pearson says the handwritten letter was a wonderful touch and it felt nice to know she was being thought of. “Knowing that she hadn’t forgotten about me made me feel special and normal,” she says. “We live in a world that is fast-moving and for Anne to keep me in her thoughts made me more determined to get back to normal life and made the thought of returning to work less daunting.”
Every Tuesday whilst I was going through treatment they took turns to freshly cook and drop off a meal."
Following her diagnosis in April 2016, Karen Gold, 46, from Ayrshire, Scotland, would receive a cooked meal from her friends each week, which proved to be an absolute life-saver for the mum-of-three who felt sick when she had to prepare food.
She explains: “I was in a carpool with four mums ferrying our daughters to gymnastics and every Tuesday whilst I was going through treatment they took turns to freshly cook and drop off a meal.”
The meals would always arrive around 5pm and Gold would either use it that night or put it in the freezer.
“It was a godsend for us at the time,” she says. “Cooking made me nauseous and they have no idea just how much it meant to me.”
You can support people affected by cancer this Breast Cancer Awareness Month by holding a Big Pink party for Breast Cancer Care. Visit www.breastcancercare.
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