Can you help us to shape the future of cancer support?

Shine Cancer Support Blog

Way, way back in 2011, Shine Cancer Support was tiny. We had two support groups (one in Dorset and one in London) and we weren’t yet registered as a charity.  We had no staff, but we felt like there was a lot of need for support for younger adults with cancer. Unfortunately, try as we might, we couldn’t find it – and we also couldn’t find any research on the needs of younger adults with cancer in the UK. To help us make the case for change, we ran an online survey as part of our Small c Project 2012. This was the first research carried out into the needs of adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s. The results helped us to shape our work and create workshops, retreats and conferences that covered topics that were of importance to our community: fertility, working after cancer, coping with anxiety…

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Shine’s Northern Retreat

Shine Cancer Support Blog

Hi everyone, I’m Rosie, and I’m the newest member of staff here at Shine HQ.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2016 and after following the usual treatment route of surgery, chemo and radiotherapy, I now have ongoing maintenance treatment every 3 weeks.  This is because the docs think that, at one point, the cancer spread to my spine, although currently I have no active disease.

pasted image 0 (2) At work in the Shine office

A close friend of mine told me all about Shine at the very beginning of my treatment and as soon as I went to my first Shine event, I was hooked! I decided very early on that if the opportunity to work for them ever came up then I was definitely going to apply! I took on a volunteer role of jointly running the Dorset network and then, last June, I managed to make it back…

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Meet Rosie – social work student and latest member of the Shine team!

My 3rd blog for Shine Cancer Support

Shine Cancer Support Blog

Rosie is a university student studying social work in Bournemouth. We’re extremely lucky to have her on placement with us until January 2019. Below Rosie tells us a bit about herself, how she found out about Shine, and what social work can mean to those living with cancer.

Hi everyone, I’m Rosie! I’m 33, and in June 2016 I was diagnosed with breast cancer for which I now receive ongoing maintenance treatment because they think it has spread to my spine. At the time of writing though, I currently have no evidence of disease!

social work and cancer Rosie

When I was diagnosed, I had just finished my first year at Bournemouth University studying social work. I took two years out and had pretty much written myself off, let alone the thought of getting back to uni! Fast forward to 29 June of this year and it was the first day of my second…

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I love that I played a part in the inspiration for this 3rd book in an awesome series!

Catherine Sabatina's Blog

The third instalment of The Sweet Jasmine Series is now live on KDP! It’s taken more than three years to complete and the courage to publish it. “Sometimes you just have to jump on in and go for it.”

Blood allows the reader to discover all the reasons behind the magic and mystery, why our witch has always been wary of falling in love and why she has two different colour eyes.

There are influences of flower magic in Blood, as a few years ago a fan named Rosie, presented me with an old spell book. There, I came across flower magic, which inspired me to create a rather complex character called Amaryllis. It’s funny how things trigger inspiration.

“A conversation about the passed lives theory, also influenced the story.”


Catherine x

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My 1st blog for Shine Cancer Support

Shine Cancer Support Blog

In September 2017, a group of intrepid climbers will make their way up Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro while raising money for Shine. One of those making the journey is Rosie Hellawell, a member of Shine’s Dorset Network. Rosie currently blogging her way through cancer treatment (and the alphabet) and we’re delighted she’s written a blog for us about how she’s working to realise her dream of climbing the world’s tallest free-standing mountain once she’s finished treatment.  Take a read, share, and let us know what you think. And if you’d like to donate to Rosie’s trip, please check out her fundraising page here.

rainbowwig Guest blogger Rosie Hellawell

DREAMS: Transforming Desires to Reality Everyday through Aspiration, Motivation and scary Statistics!


Since receiving my breast cancer diagnoses in June of this year I wouldn’t say that my long term desires have massively changed. I would still…

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Eggs, Education and Enlargements!


Eggs (not the dippy or chocolatey kind)

Image result for fried egg boobs

Not this kind either but it made me chuckle and it is kind of relevant!

Those of you who know me know that I decided a long time ago that I don’t want children.  I don’t have anything against them, in fact there are a few that I  like quite a lot but the thought of having my own has never appealed.  It is a massive commitment that all too often is taken too lightly.  I have other wants and needs that won’t be satisfied by procreating and I am perfectly happy with my previously mentioned self imposed ‘crazy cat lady’ title.  Given what I know now perhaps that maternal instinct was never there for good reason?

Some of you know that before all this cancer malarkey I had decided to donate my eggs to help other people who are unable to have children naturally.  I figured that my eggs were going to waste each month and it seemed a shame not to make good use of them.  There had to be some point to monthly menstruation, oh the good old days…..what I would do now to have a period!

Anyway, I digress, the cruel irony was that they actually didn’t want my eggs because I have dodgy chromosomes or a ‘balanced reciprocal translocation’ to be precise.  It is associated with recurrent miscarriages, fertility problems and giving birth to children with special needs.  I can’t really blame them for not wanting them….it would have been entirely counter productive!

I imagine being diagnosed with my type of breast cancer for a woman who wants but does not yet have children is as devastating as the diagnoses itself and I am therefore grateful that I am not in that position.  There is the option to freeze eggs which my surgeon was quite insistent about until I explained my position, but there are still no guarantees.

Not only does chemotherapy affect fertility, I have also been put into a chemical menopause through ovarian suppression for the next two years.  Unless of course I need to have an oophorectomy which is entirely plausible if I fail genes testing.  This would then put me in immediate and permanent menopause. If they choose not to do that procedure then I will still have to take an additional hormone treatment for up to ten years because my cancer is oestrogen receptive.  This too will keep me in chemical menopause and has the added bonus of either bringing on my natural menopause much earlier (yes there would be two!) or I would end up just staying permanently menopausal….either way it’s not ideal to be honest.


Whilst cancer might be having a temporary impact on my education, (all my uni mates are off on their first day of placement as I type) it is actually an education in itself. It has also opened up a world of possibilities career wise for once I am through the other side that I would never have considered before.


I’m the type of person who needs to know everything about everything, a control freak some might and have said! I have been flooding myself with information, facts and figures but you need  a degree just to fathom out your diagnosis letter!

I have become passionate about educating others on the signs and symptoms to look out for and raising awareness that younger women (and men) need to be checking themselves and as such I have become a ‘Boobette’ for CoppaFeel! This means I will be going into schools and youth clubs to spread the message.  Uni also has a team which I have joined so look out uni mates for some awesome events coming your way over the next few months starting at Freshers Fair!



I’ve had a funny relationship with my boobs.  As a young teenager I would go to M&S every Saturday to be measured, just willing them to have grown above their AA status.  When I was 18 I put down and lost a deposit for a boob job….I freaked out about the surgery….knives and needles just really aren’t my thing!  I came to accept my size and didn’t give it too much thought except for the occasional reminder such as when I asked a lady in Primark if they had bras in my size, she looked me up and down and then asked if I had checked the children’s section….true story!  Anyway years passed, I gained a lot of weight and I thought perhaps it might be time to be measured again so off I trundled to M&S.  When the lady saw that I was wearing a AA she literally laughed in my face and told me I was spilling out….haha this was one of the happiest days of my life and I couldn’t wait to tell everyone that I was now the proud owner of C cups (albeit small C’s!) I lost the weight and thought I would lose the boobs but by some miracle they remained.

I met my surgeon last week and it was decided that I will have a full mastectomy on my right side with axillary clearance, this is scheduled for the 10th October.  They will put an expander in immediately that will get pumped up over the following months whilst maybe more chemo and definitely radiotherapy is happening to allow the muscle to grow so a new boob can fit in.  Once ‘active’ treatment is finished it will be time to reconstruct.  I will most probably also have the currently healthy side removed and reconstructed at the same time.  It is yet to be decided what type of reconstruction but it is possible that they will do it from my belly fat!!

You might have worked out by now that I am a silver linings kind of girl so naturally my next question was ‘can you make them bigger please’?  I was genuinely shocked when she replied ‘of course darling, anything to make you happy!’  I’m thinking DD but I am open to suggestions so feel free to get in touch! I might be going to lose all feeling in my boobs, at least one nipple and have some pretty impressive scars but at least I will be doing it with a new found bounce in my step!


Don’t forget to click on ‘follow’ to make sure you don’t miss the next instalment and please do visit my fundraising page for my Kilimanjaro trek that is scheduled for next year in aid of Shine Cancer Support.

Dragons, Disability and Dreams



I was so blown away with the positive response to my first blog that the pressure is on to keep up the momentum. What better way to do that than bring dragons into the mix?!  No, I haven’t lost the plot, I am in fact referring to dragon boats…they look a bit like this for the uninitiated!

Since my diagnosis I have been amazed at how many brilliant opportunities there are out there for people who have cancer to get involved with. I love meeting new people and trying new things so in a strange way, I am actually in my element!  One such lovely lady I met at ‘cancer bootcamp‘ is also a member of my local breast cancer dragon boat team ‘Pink Champagne’….(awesome name…sign me up!)  I have seen (and heard) them coming down the river in the past and thought how fab they are, well once my treatment is over, hopefully I will be able to join their ranks.  They compete all over the world and offer support and fellowship to team members.  Whilst friends and family try their hardest to put themselves in your shoes, the people who have been there before you or are going through treatment at the same time as you are the ones who really know what it feels like and their support is truly irreplaceable.


According to the Equality Act 2010 I am now disabled. That is quite a statement. It happened in the space of time it took my consultant to say “I can confirm it’s cancer”.  I didn’t feel physically any less able when I walked out of that room to when I walked in but yet it is now a label that belongs to me. Labels can be dangerous things, they come with preconceived judgements and opinions.  These are usually motivated by good intentions but can sometimes be less then helpful.  Labels can also become self-fulfilling prophecies too…but that is not a game that I intend to play!

Ironically it is the treatment for cancer that ‘disables’ a person much more than the disease itself.  Until my hair started falling out in clumps and I decided to shave it off, to the general public I would have looked just like any other 31 year old going about their every day business.

But wearing a headscarf is like walking  around with a neon light above your head flashing ‘I have cancer’.  You cannot escape the double takes, looks of shock and pity or even confusion in the case of children.  All of a sudden a new world is opened up and you are given an experience of life from an entirely different perspective.  I imagine it is similar to breaking your leg and becoming a temporary wheelchair user.  I may have forgotten for a bit that I have cancer but when I lock eyes with a stranger the reality returns.


I’m not going to lie and say that my dreams have changed dramatically in the last 3 months, I still want to complete my degree, travel the world, meet a nice guy, buy a house…nothing too unusual there but the one addition I will add is I would quite like to live for a reasonable amount of time.  I won’t say ‘be cured’ because at this time there is no cure, but to be a ‘Neddy’ would be good.

 NED: No Evidence of Disease.

Cancer has brought my mortality massively into question, something that was just not on my radar before.  It was something that was happening to other people and I was on the outside looking in but now I am on the inside looking out.  It is everywhere; in the all to regular announcements that yet another member of a private Facebook group has been lost to this awful disease despite having fought had hard as they could.   It is also in the statistics for survival rates, recurrences and quality of life following treatment. My take on it is life is it is precious and none of us know how long we have left but I have every intention to make what I do have count!

With this in mind, my next big challenge will be with Edge Travel Worldwide next year once my treatment is over.  I will be part of a Shine Cancer Support group who will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and raising much needed funds and awareness along the way.  Look at it, it’s stunning! How anyone could not be inspired is beyond me.

Don’t forget to comment below.  Do you have a personal experience of a sudden and unexpected disability?  What are your dreams?  What inspires you to get up and out every day?

For those of you who I have been banging on about ‘cancer camp’ to….this blog written by somebody else sums it up perfectly! :)

Shine Cancer Support Blog


Shine Camp is held every year in the beautiful village of Corfe Castle in Dorset. From the 5th-8th August this year, around 100 people camped out in a private field surrounded by the picturesque views typical of the area. We asked Clare to tell us about her first Shine Camp experience…


It was with the measured optimism of the British that I packed according to the weather reports. We were promised sun and, as such, I packed wellies, sourced some waterproofs, and found the numbers of some local B&Bs in case of extreme storms. The weekend of Shine Camp 2016 had finally arrived and after many hours of trying to edit my ‘I definitely need this for camp’ list the car was full and we were ready to go west. Like the Pet Shop Boys, but less stylish.

I’d heard tales of Camps past; rumours of a mystical campfire…

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