Louise Garrett-Dormer

“At the beginning of 2016 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer".

Months of chemotherapy and treatment for ovarian cancer left 51-year-old Louise Garrett-Dormer, from Weston Turville, near Aylesbury, feeling anxious and uncertain about the future.

Tapping into some of The Hospice of St Francis’ complementary and creative services has helped Louise to feel more in control and able to face her ongoing medical treatment with greater confidence. Here she explains how the sessions have helped her to feel more positive…

“At the beginning of 2016 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and was being cared for by nurses from Rennie Grove Hospice Care. I was undergoing chemotherapy and had suffered a severe and unusual reaction to the first cycle, which left me feeling tired, anxious and distressed about the effects of further treatment. This, in turn, left me short of breath.

 “The Rennie Grove nurses thought I’d benefit from some of the creative therapies on offer at The Hospice of St Francis’ Spring Centre as a way of reducing my anxiety and distracting me from everything else that was going on.

“I was interested in complementary therapy and aromatherapy, in particular, appealed to me. I’d had a couple of sessions with the Rennie Grove nurses at home but it was actually good to get out of the house and go somewhere different.

“The drive up to the Spring Centre is a kind of escapism. It feels like you are leaving your problems behind.

“After the initial meeting to decide what treatments and courses I would benefit from I started to have aromatherapy massage sessions which really helped to lift my mood. It always left me feeling very relaxed. I also tried Tai Chi, which I’d never done before.

“Since then I’ve gone on to do a tie-dying class, a mosaic class as well as Colour and Style and makeup workshops, which I really enjoyed.

“When you’re going through treatment for cancer, medical appointments can take over your life. You can feel overwhelmed by what’s happening to you. The creative classes were a welcome distraction from all that and gave me something positive to focus on.

“Doing a mosaic class or having your hair and make-up done helps to make you feel like you are getting on with normal life and you come out feeling like you’ve achieved something.

“What’s reassuring about doing these things at the Hospice, particularly the exercise classes like Tai Chi or Pilates, is that you know there is always someone there looking out for you and making sure you’re not going to be pushed further than you’re capable of and that you can go at your own pace. You know that there is always someone there to listen to you and to keep a check on how you are doing.

“Being part of a group of people who are going through a similar experience to you is also helpful as you can see that there are other people who are coping with what you are going through.

“When I had an aromatherapy massage with Complementary Therapy Coordinator Sandy Winyard it wasn’t like going for a normal massage. I knew I could talk about anything that was troubling me or was on my mind. If I had a question and she didn’t know the answer, she would go away and find out. Sandy was very good at listening and tuning in to what was the matter with me and then getting the help that I needed. I found that enormously reassuring.

“We always finished each session with a little reiki, which helped me to retain the feeling of calmness and increased wellbeing.

“On top of all of this, each week I get a phone call from the Hospice which is another chance for me to talk through any problems or to get advice on anything that is bothering me.

“After months of undergoing gruelling chemotherapy and treatment for cancer, I recently attended an exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre in London, which is something I hadn’t felt well enough to do for some time. It was a wonderful day and, although I felt tired by the end of it, I was delighted at having done something ‘normal’.

“I’m now looking forward to continuing the creative therapy courses and carrying on with Pilates and Tai Chi.”