October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and with one person being diagnosed every 10 minutes, we at The Unedit feel that it’s important to offer the right information and guidance. That’s why this October we’re working in support of Breast Cancer Care, the only specialist UK-wide support charity for people affected by breast cancer. Each week, we’ll be bringing you articles with the help of the charity’s specialists, to do our part in raising awareness.
It goes without saying that living with breast cancer is far from easy. Whilst there’s often substantial support for those going through treatment, there’s a significant lack of it available for those whose treatment is over. Offering a new, accessible form of support is Breast Cancer Care’s BECCA app, which notifies users with day-to-day hints, tips and strategies to help them cope with their breast cancer experience post-treatment.
Complementing Breast Cancer Care’s face-to-face Moving Forward course, the app works in a flashcard format, sending five of the best suggestions to the user. Gradually, as the app gets to know your interests, the suggestions are customised to what will be more useful to you. With each flashcard, the user then has the option to read more, or swipe left or right to view the next suggestion. If you don’t have time to read, or want to save until later, you can add suggestions to your favourites, making them easier to find again. But users don’t just have to wait for the right flashcards to come their way — the app also shows all support content in category format, giving people freedom to access the right support 24 hours a day.
Launched in May 2017, BECCA is proud to be the first of its kind and deservedly, it won the Best Health Project award at this year’s National Lottery Awards. It comes as no surprise that users are finding the app invaluable.
Secondary school teacher Tori Chapman, 30 from Stockport, found a lump in her breast just before Christmas 2017 while lying in bed. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in the New Year and went through surgery and radiotherapy. She said:
“Going through treatment felt like being in a bubble – you go from one appointment to the next and it’s difficult to take anything in. So for me, finishing treatment was the hardest part - worse even than surgery - as it wasn’t until I left hospital it hit me I’d been through something massive. The aftermath of breast cancer is so tough to deal with, emotionally and physically.”
“Even though I’m only 30, I’m now on drugs – hormone therapy to reduce the risk of the breast cancer coming back – for up to ten years which have kick-started early menopause. This has a big impact on my day-to-day life as night sweats make it difficult to sleep and I’m always in front of a fan at work trying to cool off my hot flushes! The medication also complicates having children as I can’t get pregnant while taking them.
“I’ve struggled to come to terms with the fact my body isn’t the same anymore – cancer takes a huge toll. However, using BECCA has helped me come to terms with this. There’s great advice on easing back into exercise, and its put me in touch with other people my age, helping me feel less isolated. Breast cancer has been a huge journey, and I've come out the other side with more of an appreciation of life. Now, I do the things I love more and care less about unimportant things.”
Talking about the post-treatment experience and BECCA’s mission, David Crosby, Director of Services and Engagement at Breast Cancer Care, said:
“The people we support tell us that, when you’ve finished breast cancer treatment, getting back to ‘normal’ can feel like a huge mountain to climb. Many expect to be hugely relieved, but instead can feel scared about what lies ahead. Debilitating long term side effects, anxieties about the cancer returning and damaged body confidence are just some of the issues people are left with as they walk out of the hospital doors.
“Around 691,000 people are alive in the UK after a diagnosis of breast cancer, and the numbers are only set to rise. So it’s crucial we do more to reach as many of those who need support as possible, and make sure they know they’re not alone.
“The aim of BECCA is to help people feel healthier, happier and more ready to move on with life after a breast cancer diagnosis. We hope that, by providing people with the support and information they need in a way that fits into their everyday lives, we can give them a boost of confidence to live well after their treatment ends.”
BECCA is available for both iOS and Android and is free to download. If you know someone who would benefit from BECCA, but doesn’t have access to a smartphone, BECCA Lite is available via the Breast Cancer Care website.
For care, support and information, call Breast Cancer Care’s nurses for free on 0808 800 6000 or visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk. To help Breast Cancer Care continue to provide these vital services for free, hold a Big Pink party www.breastcancercare.org.uk/October