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Anthony's mindfulness journey

For Anthony, Mindfulness and complementary therapies have helped turn what was an extremely distressing situation into one which is altogether more manageable. Here's his story.

Anthony, who has benefitted hugely from mindfulness and complementary therapies provided by Weston Park Cancer Charity following his diagnosis and treatment for bowel cancer, is pictured at the charity's frontline support facility, Weston Park Cancer Support, on Northumberland Road, Sheffield.

“You have literally changed my life."

"That is no exaggeration. I know, going forward, that I’ve got methods of dealing with the rollercoaster ride which is going to be the next five years. I’m not out the woods yet, but hopefully I’m at the beginning of a journey that’s defining who I am.”

When he was diagnosed with bowel cancer in December 2021, Anthony’s life changed overnight. Just a few months later, he’d had major surgery and undergone an intense, 12-week course of chemotherapy at Weston Park.

Anthony’s physical appearance and wellbeing was impacted hugely by his diagnosis and treatment; before, he would run 10km four times a week – and was by all accounts very fit and healthy.

However, though the mark on his stomach left by his surgery was – and at times, still is – a source of discomfort, for Anthony it was the mental scars which took far more work to heal; something which he started to work on after walking through the doors at Weston Park Cancer Support.

Surgery was successful for 53-year-old Anthony, from Swinton near Rotherham in South Yorkshire. However, it was followed by 12 weeks of chemotherapy at Weston Park – which Anthony described as ‘brutal’.

Anthony said: “It was strange because I didn’t want chemo, but when they told me I was going to have it I was pleased. I was pleased in one respect as it was going to treat me, but on the other hand they only gave it to me because it had spread.

“It was really difficult and was another thing which just messes with your mind. That’s when I got in touch with Weston Park Cancer Charity after finding out about the charity’s group and one-to-one mindfulness courses, with Fran Ball, Senior Healthcare Professional at Weston Park Cancer Charity, and Diane Walker.

“I sat down with Fran, she asked how I was finding my chemotherapy and I just broke down. My philosophy to that point had been to just ignore it and get on with it – to plough my way through it.

“But that’s when I realised I’d been surpressing everything. I’d gone from being fit and healthy, to diagnosis, to having my operation and starting chemotherapy – and there was no processing time at all.

“But I came to see Fran and Diane and embarked on a six-week mindfulness course with them. And it was fantastic. It was absolutely amazing.”

Mindfulness – with Fran Ball and Diane Walker

One of the most effective techniques of managing anxieties is mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a practice that focuses on bringing you to the present – not the past or future but simply this moment, right now.

It’s an invaluable relaxation technique that helps you to develop coping strategies to deal with difficult thoughts and feelings.

Through practice, mindfulness can reduce stress and anxiety and aid relaxation of both the body and mind.

"My wife saw a huge difference"

Following his treatment, Anthony has also made use of a series of four complementary therapies at Weston Park Cancer Support, and has since had reiki and shiatsu massage therapy. And he said that the effects on both him and his family have been profound.

“My mental health would have suffered massively, because I found the chemotherapy very difficult to deal with,” said Anthony.

“Having cancer can make you feel quite lonely. I’m the only person in my family who has had it, more or less. But you’re on this journey with other people, and with your family as well. It seems strange but they’re not experiencing what you are. They can empathise, they can support you, but meeting others who have been through it (via the group mindfulness course) was so important.

“My wife saw a huge difference, because I was surpressing everything. I’d get up in the morning and she’s ask me how I felt – I’d very curtly just reply with ‘fine’.

“I’d get up and feel tired and sick – the mindfulness helped empower me to be honest with how I felt; taking time for yourself is very important. The situation makes you examine what’s important and why; so it’s been good for my family too.

“I don’t think I realised how down I was about my diagnosis, and you don’t realise until someone tells you.

“Mindfulness is a difficult thing, because I don’t know what people’s perception would be. But my advice to anyone would be to be very open about it. Just give it a go. It might not be for everyone, but I can’t tell you how beneficial it’s been for me.

“It’s changed my life; to be fair it’s probably saved my life. I dread to think where I would be if I hadn’t come.”

For more information on Weston Park Cancer Charity or to discover more about our cancer support services, call 0114 553 3330, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.