Receiving a cancer diagnosis during lockdown - Marisa's Story


A diagnosis of cancer is a huge shock at any time. Receiving one during the coronavirus pandemic which took hold in the spring would have been doubly difficult for most people to cope with.

This is the situation Marisa Wray from Natland faced in April when doctors revealed she had breast cancer, a mere two weeks after the Government initiated a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the virus.

Following a series of tests which began in February, Marisa was told that she would need a mastectomy, however, this would be delayed due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“The doctors said that it was the ‘best’ form of cancer to have as it would be slow to develop and that I may not be able to have surgery before the autumn,” said Marisa.

This was obviously a cause of great worry for Marisa who is herself a busy doctor working as psychiatrist in older people’s mental health, diagnosing and treating people with a range of mental illnesses as well as dementia.

“I was going into work with the knowledge that I had cancer growing in my breast which was a very difficult and stressful thing to have hanging over me,” she said.

Marisa began to seek advice on how to cope via online forums and she eventually found out about the range of support offered by CancerCare.  After an initial contact, she was quickly referred for counselling with Jude Gaddes, an experienced professional who covers the South Lakeland area.

Jude would ordinarily have conducted the sessions face-to-face at the charity’s Kendal Centre on Blackhall Road, however, she has been seeing clients via Zoom to comply with the Government guidelines on social distancing.

Ten sessions in, Marisa said her work with Jude had made huge difference to her mental health at an extremely tough time.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Jude. Just having that listening ear and someone to tell you that it is completely normal to feel the way you are feeling has really helped,” said Marisa.

Marisa had her mastectomy surgery last week and she has since been recuperating from the after effects while looking forward to getting back to enjoying the sports and outdoor activities she loves including climbing mountains, running and wild swimming.

She is continuing her counselling sessions with Jude and is also writing a regular blog about her life and recent entries take a refreshingly honest, and often humorous, look at a range of experiences ranging from implant surgery to shopping for mastectomy bras at ASDA.

“I began doing the blog around three years ago writing about the things that were going on in my life and recently, there has been so many ups and downs it has been a very cathartic process which has helped me gain some perspective on what was happening to me,” said Marisa.

Jude Gaddes is a qualified adult and young people’s counsellor with many years of experience.

Jude said: “Cancer is as diverse in its development as the individual who has it and when it is diagnosed it understandably sends shockwaves through the one receiving the diagnosis and those who are connected to them.

“Cancer can be a profoundly life changing event and spending time with a counsellor can help people navigate this experience and I am often struck by how little time we actually spend talking about cancer in sessions, and how much more time we spend talking about every other aspect of life.”

Read Marisa’s brilliant blog here

Receiving a cancer diagnosis during lockdown - Marisa's Story
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