As Royal Surrey County Hospital marks World Cancer Day (February 4), one cancer patient shares her journey to remission.
Julie Carter was diagnosed with breast cancer in May last year and following surgery to “evict the invader” she was referred to St Luke’s Cancer Centre for radiotherapy.
Today she is in remission and keen to tell people that St Luke’s, which is based in Royal Surrey, is not the “scary place” she once thought.
“The memory of my first day of treatment is still very vivid, as if it was yesterday,” said the 66-year-old.
“The feeling of fear and panic that swept through me as I stood outside those doors and looked up at the words ‘St Luke’s Cancer Centre’.
“That was my ‘oh my God’ moment.
“This was the moment when I realised the truth I had pushed to the back of my thoughts had to be faced, that my illness and the surgery was because I had cancer.”
Julie, from Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, found the courage to walk through the doors and was surprised by what she found inside.
“Everything was very peaceful and tranquil, there seemed to be an air of calm reassurance and support throughout the entire department.
“From the kind and very patient staff on the reception desk who gently direct new patients, through to the Patient Support Team and the staff operating the radiotherapy suites, they are all extremely caring, dedicated professionals.
Julie endured 23 days of radiotherapy, with only her weekends off treatment.
“St Luke’s staff were forever cheerful and if I was having a down day they would try and cheer me up.
“I found them always to be sympathetic and willing to listen.
“They were always ready to answer any questions I might have about my treatment, the machines or help with any concerns or worries I had during or even after radiotherapy.”
Julie was told that she was in remission in October last year.
“’You’re in remission’, those are the three little words that are guaranteed to get staff members beaming in delight.
“I always had a sense of humour with my cancer treatment.
“I always remembered what my mother used to tell me, if you laugh the world laughs with you but if you cry you cry alone.
“I remember one day I was sitting outside the suite waiting to be called in for treatment and one of the staff said, ‘Julie, come on down.’
“I remember thinking ‘I can play this game too’.
“I asked her what the star prize on the conveyer belt was for today.
“’Radiotherapy,’ she said and I replied, ‘ok, I think I am going to go for the star prize.”
Julie will continue to go for regular checks at her local hospital for the next few years to ensure the cancer has not returned.
But for now, she is enjoying her retirement and volunteering at her local hospital.
The Royal Surrey delivers cancer care to a population of 1.3m people across a wide catchment in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire under St Luke’s Cancer Centre.