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My NHS Story: I was going through one of life’s toughest trials and the NHS were there for me

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My NHS Story: I was going through one of life’s toughest trials and the NHS were there for me

For our celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the NHS this year we asked our colleagues for a story of how this cherished service has touched their lives.

Sam Pickering’s family had no history of breast cancer. The Customer Service Manager was happily preparing for her wedding - and then she found a lump. Nine weeks later, Sam faced radiotherapy but not chemotherapy, thanks to the rapid, effective and caring support she received from the NHS. And, her wedding went ahead as planned.

“There is no history of breast cancer in my family. It was quite a shock to receive the diagnosis. I'm only 38 years old, but after just two and a half months, I’m through the worst of it because the NHS’ response has been so quick.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on the 28th May 2018 at the breast care clinic at Pinderfields hospital in Wakefield. It was definitely not the sort of life changing event that I was expecting; I had been focussing on my wedding that was planned for 15 June. I found the lump on 8 May and I went straight to my GP. My GP then referred me to the breast care clinic at Pinderfields Hospital. The treatment has been really quick and really effective since.

I was admitted straight into the clinic on Friday 11 May. I saw the consultant then and I went in for an ultrasound. After the ultrasound I went in for a mammogram and after that I had the biopsy. They did it all that same afternoon – amazing! The health care assistant was with me all the time, supporting me.

It was the way the staff came across and how they made me feel that I remember most, they made receiving that bad news a little bit easier to deal with. They were 99% certain that it was breast cancer. But, they were telling me that I shouldn't worry, they were telling me that the cancer was only tiny. And whilst all this was going in, we were trying to finalise the details for our wedding.

I went back two weeks later to get my biopsy result which confirmed their suspicions. At this point I met the breast cancer nurse who was going to be working with me throughout my treatment. I saw the consultant again, and the other breast cancer nurses in the team and they were just amazing. They just helped me to make the best out of a bad situation. They made me feel just a little bit better about everything; a little bit better about my prognosis, and a little bit better about the treatment I was going to go through.

The treatment was to be surgery followed by radiotherapy. My surgery was scheduled for 20 June. But, before that surgery would take place I was due to get married on 15 June.
On the big day – for the surgery that is – the nurses were holding my hand, because my new husband couldn't come in to surgery with me.

I remember, there was always a healthcare assistant with me. To have somebody there, sitting beside you, just making sure that you understood everything, making sure that all your questions had been answered, is so reassuring.

On 6 July, two and a half weeks after my surgery, I got the really good news that my surgery had been a success and that the cancer had not spread. It’s local, so I don't have to have chemotherapy.

The next step of my journey will be radiotherapy and that's going to happen in mid-August. I am also on hormone therapy, but I'm just waiting for the radiotherapy, and that will be it, all over. It’s been a crazy couple of months.

The time leading up to the surgery result was worrying, but the breast cancer nurses have only ever been a phone call away if I need anything. I've had a number that I could ring if I've got any questions or any concerns and they would always ring me back within an hour.

I’d say it was the breast cancer nurses and the healthcare assistants that really stood out for me, more than anything. They were so kind and compassionate and importantly they were there the whole time, often holding my hand. In fact, all the staff that I've come into contact with have been absolutely fantastic.”