Kim (right) was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and underwent a mastectomy before beginning chemotherapy in early 2011.
“I recovered well from surgery and soon after started six sessions of chemotherapy at Guys Hospital which took place every three weeks. The chemotherapy was the worse for me and left me feeling very sick from the side effects. It was then that I first heard about Dimbleby Cancer Care. After having such a bad reaction to the chemotherapy drugs I was admitted to hospital, and it was then that I was given one of the charity’s special pillows. It was this simple gesture of kindness that meant so much to me as well as the added comfort of using it. The fact that someone cared and was looking after me really perked me up – I still have it on my bed.
Whilst on the ward the charity arranged for its therapists to give me aromatherapy massages which helped me relax enormously and made me feel a bit more like my old self again. I continued with this throughout my treatment and it made such a difference.
In October 2011, almost a year after my initial diagnosis, and when I had just returned to work, my husband became ill and was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. It had spread everywhere. He died five weeks after his diagnosis in December 2011.
I found that my family’s whole world had been turned upside down again – a cruel blow that is difficult to explain to people.
I handed in my notice at school and retrained to be a florist. I had done a couple of short courses when I was originally off work having my treatment as a kind of therapy. I was so happy working with flowers that I completely changed my career. I now work at the florists in Covent Garden where I did my diploma course. I teach on some of courses as well.
After my husband died I found myself turning to Dimbleby Cancer Care again. This time I had 1-1 counselling with a fantastic counsellor, it helped me so much I couldn’t have managed otherwise. The charity also offered me a place on the survivorship in action cognitive behaviour therapy group workshops last year. I can truly say that this has helped me more than I ever expected. It was fantastic. I feel like a different person and can deal with things better.
I decided recently that I wanted to do something to say thank you to Dimbleby Cancer Care for all its support so along with my cousin Rose, who also suffered from breast cancer and was supported by the charity, organised a one day 20-mile sponsored walk around London. It was a fantastic day with friends and family and we raised more than £10,000 towards the charity’s work, which was a great achievement. I am very keen to continue supporting the charity and do what I can to help others.”
Kim Ropek, 59, Lewisham