‘I was at my lowest, my positivity was failing, my spirit was cracking’ - Stark reality of breast cancer diagnosis revealed at event to mark charity’s work

Jill Ward speaking at the Littlelifts anniversary event. Photo: Geraldine Scott

Jill Ward speaking at the Littlelifts anniversary event. Photo: Geraldine Scott - Credit: Geraldine Scott

'I didn't recognise the person who stared back at me in the morning.'

That was the impact chemotherapy had on one Norfolk woman fighting breast cancer.

Jill Ward, from Oxborough, near Downham Market, told her story to mark the one-year anniversary of charity Littlelifts.

Littlelifts was launched last year by Oa Hackett, from Bawburgh, who herself had breast cancer and was buoyed by receiving gift packages from friends.

Her aim was to ensure every woman going through a similar experience had all the tools she needed for the symptoms and side effects they did not yet know they faced.

So she launched the charity and provided comfort boxes full of practical items to women in the same situation.

At an event to celebrate the charity's anniversary last week Mrs Ward, who was diagnosed in January, outlined the stark reality of a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, and what the box had meant to her.

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She said: 'I can only say when the doctor uses those words your world stops for a moment and it slightly tilts on its axis. I found it hard to accept that the people were talking about me and talking about a person who has cancer.

'I even went home and started to say it out loud because that was the only way I could make it feel real. But it was very real. I had to have surgery, I had to have chemo, I had to have radiotherapy, I had to have 17 injections and still 11 to go. It was big guns serious stuff and I was scared.'

Mrs Ward said: 'I personally felt as if I was on the brink of a very, very deep, black hole. And every side effect [the doctor] mentioned I just slipped further and further down into it.

'I was probably at my lowest, my positivity was failing, my spirit was cracking.

'But on those days during my chemo when I stood at the bottom of my staircase and it was taking every strength in my body to get me to the top of those stairs.

'On the days when I slid down the side of the shower wall because my bones had turned to rubber and I didn't have the strength to stand up to wash.

'On the days when your family tell you that you're strong and you're brave and you really don't feel it, you just want to curl up in a little ball and you just want this cancer to go away.

'It was on those days that this little box just gently nudged me to my next chemo session.'

Some 180 boxes have now been given out to women diagnosed with primary breast cancer at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), and the charity has recently expanded to the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) and Ipswich Hospital too.

Plus a new website means they will soon be able to take orders for boxes and send them to those who would like to pay for them, and they have already had orders from abroad.

Mrs Hackett said: 'We've had an incredible first year. Women remain at the forefront of everything we do.'

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