We will be doing regular posts on the site to introduce the team behind Annabel's Angels, and first up is Dorothee. So here are some words on her involvement with the charity... I became an Annabel’s Angel in January of this year. It wasn’t a club I had sought out to join – sometimes we just sort of fall into our roles. Was it destiny?
I pre-qualified myself as an Angel, when in 2012 on Easter Sunday I found a lump in my breast. The day after my 47th birthday, and 3 years after my dad had passed away after his long battle with Non Hotchkin’s Lymphoma.
From that day on my life changed completely. Routines were no longer routines, expectations were no longer expectations, definites were no longer definite. I found myself having to hand over the controls of my life choices to a medical team who I learned over the coming year to deeply trust.
Surgery, followed by 6 months of ‘Bootcamp’ (chemo) was followed by 19 sessions of ‘Tanning’ (radiotherapy). My reproductive body was switched to ‘off’, and until very recently I had the joys of working my way through 3 weekly Herceptin cycles, with all its issues and sideshows.
In my need to make some sense of my situation I reached out to the wonderful MacMillan website. It is full of information, sensitive to individual’s needs and inviting to browse or ask questions. There I met my Macland friends, and Annabel was one of them – Annie40, she called herself. These ladies were going through what I was going through. And we started sharing our experiences. We learned to listen, to trust, to cry and to laugh about this huge entity, which none of us had ever invited into our lives!
"These ladies were going through what I was going through. And we started sharing our experiences."
The year struggled on, and most of us felt that, although with massively depleted energy levels, and bruised self-confidence, we seemed to be clawing our ways back out of the mire. Sadly, however, we also lost some very dear friends on the way, Annie being one.
New Year 2013 was a turning point in my relation to my cancer: Cancer, and it’s treatment were left behind in 2012! 2013 was dedicated to Recovery! To getting this bruised, abused body back into shape. To show Cancer, it has no place in my life! – And I found I wasn’t the only one who had this desire woken inside of me. My Macland friends were right there with me. And so we booked ourselves onto the Race for Life events throughout the country, and we started training. And Annabel’s Angels were born.
As my recovery year is nearing its end, I am proud of many achievements: I did cover 10k for the Race for Life, I walked 9 hours through the Scottish hills over the Lairig Ghru, I walked the London Shine Marathon. And I am now regularly in the gym going through my exercises. Yes, the body is getting there again!
But the body is not the only piece of me that has gone through the cancer ordeal. My mind/my soul have as well! They have been bruised along the way, they have felt trauma, and they are still on their road to recovery, too.
I feel passionately that we need to give ourselves time, to learn to trust ourselves again, to learn to trust our future again, and to feel our way around in our new outlook in life. Life has changed us. We are Upgrades (Thanks Ali, for that term!) of ourselves.
"Life has changed us. We are Upgrades of ourselves."
How each one of us deals with this depends on each individual, their capacity to embrace the traumas, their situation in life and their support levels around them. But, what we all need, I believe, is the opportunity to share. To communicate. To ask questions and to let rip, when the chips are down.
MacMillan have understood this message, and are operating a wonderful service of peer support online – as anonymous as you like, as professional as you need. Annabel’s Angels are looking to extend this peer support out into our community: starting in the area of Derby, Annabel’s home.
In our fundraising and donations, we are hoping to reach out to everyone and anyone, who is struggling with the effects of cancer. We’d like to invite the peer support into the community. Share face to face. And we would hope to signpost relevant options of support in the local community as we carefully choose the projects we donate to.
Please come talk to us, if you see us around in Derby, or otherwise find us on our Annabel’s Angels Facebook page, too.