Melton woman talks about her challenging life after cancer

Melton woman Aggie Kownacka, who is recovering from having treatment for breast cancer, with husband Maciej, EMN-190301-175006001
Melton woman Aggie Kownacka, who is recovering from having treatment for breast cancer, with husband Maciej, EMN-190301-175006001
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A Melton woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer has been talking about the tough challenges she faced after her treatment had finished.

Aggie Kownacka (37) had surgery and radiotherapy after getting the devastating news that she had the disease in May last year.

She was indebted to the support of hospital staff in Leicester for helping her come to terms with the physical and mental battles she went through in recovery.

Aggie benefited from a new recovery package of support, called the HOPE course, which enabled her to become more knowledgeable, skilled and confident in managing the physical, emotional and psychological consequences of living with cancer.

“The HOPE course helped me come to terms with my new life and slowly, session after session, it reinstated my confidence,” she said.

“The first thing I learned thanks to HOPE was that it’s OK not to be OK.

“I have learned how to handle stress and fatigue which made a massive impact on my life.

“I now incorporate meditation into my daily routine, something I never thought would work.”

The Macmillan team at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust launched the recovery support package to help people living with cancer to take a more active role in their care by giving them the right information and support at the right time, as well as the tools and confidence to manage their health.

One of the tools used is a simple form called the Holistic Needs Assessment (HNA) or concerns checklist and, once completed, this enables an individual and their health professional to draw up a personalised care plan.

One result of the HNA process has been to recruit patients to HOPE (Help Overcoming Problems Effectively) sessions, which are themed around different topics, such as managing stress and fatigue, mindfulness and positive thinking, with lots of group discussion and participation.

Everyone is encouraged to speak freely and share their worries, thoughts and success stories in order to feel less isolated and more positive about the steps that they can make in their life after cancer.

The support she received has allayed a lot of the worries Aggie felt when her treatment ended.

She added: “It all happened so quickly - I was diagnosed with cancer, I had surgery followed by radiotherapy and this left no time to dwell on the situation.

“My mind was occupied with what was happening at the time and I was focusing on my treatment and getting better.

“During my radiotherapy I started to think about what my life would be like when the treatment finished.

“I expressed my concerns with one of the nurses and they reassured me that this was a normal feeling and there was support available.”

Abbie Woodhouse, a Macmillan cancer pathway lead at the Leicester hospitals trust, said: “We are delighted that we are now able to offer a recovery package for people to discuss their most important issues and enable a personalised care plan to be put together.

“We have run four HOPE courses in Leicester and they have been well received by participants and facilitators, alike.

“Participants find that they have a lot in common with each other, even though they may have very different cancer diagnoses.”

Anyone who has a cancer diagnosis and who hasn’t been offered an HNA is urged to tell their your key worker or healthcare professional.

Further HOPE courses will run this year and those who would like to take part can email cancerinfo@uhl-tr.nhs.uk or call 0116 258 6189,