A Sutton Coldfield woman who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer is urging other women in the same situation to access a vital service for support.
Charlotte Wittman, from Kingstanding, was handed a leaflet for the St Giles Women’s Specialist Cancer Service on the day she was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer.
She’d been referred for a mammogram and biopsy after her breast started itching every night.
“I was given the news I had cancer at Good Hope Hospital and one of the breast cancer nurses gave me a handful of leaflets,” she said.
“Although I had been told the cancer was treatable, I wanted to find out what support was available so I got in touch and it was the best thing I could have done.”
Charlotte got in touch with St Giles Clinical Nurse Specialist Katherine Hill, who was there every step of the way throughout her treatment.
“I knew despite the fact I had been told it was 100% treatable that it would be a tough time as my partner’s wife had died of cancer so I knew it would be difficult for him and me,” she said.
“I was able to talk through all my worries with Katherine before each treatment and it made a huge difference to have an outlet for my feelings.
“Katherine was there on the days I didn’t feel optimistic – even though the treatment went well and all the results were positive there were some really tough times.
“I found myself getting annoyed, depressed and down and was really hard on myself on occasions.”
After a mastectomy and extensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy over 12 months Charlotte was given the all clear and celebrated by signing up for a trip with Odyssey, which Katherine referred her for.
“Odyssey is a charity which helps people diagnosed with cancer restore their confidence through a five day mystery adventure,” said Charlotte.
“It literally was a trip into the unknown, but Katherine gave me the confidence to go for it and during the trip I actually began to feel like me again.
“I can’t reveal what we did as it would spoil it for people taking part in the future but I made firm friends and did things I never expected I would be able to tackle.
“I’m grabbing life with two hands now and doing everything I can to seize every opportunity.”
The Specialist Cancer Service was set up in 2018 and since then has supported more than 80 women with or after cancer, living with issues around body image, sexuality, relationships and wellbeing.
“Going through cancer treatment and living with the effects of the treatment and the cancer can have a real impact on mood, relationships and daily life,” said Katherine.
“It’s been a privilege to be there to support Charlotte from the point of diagnosis through the treatment and I’m exceptionally proud of her for embracing the opportunity of the Odyssey trip.”
The Specialist Women’s Cancer service, which was set up following a donation from Breast Friends Sutton Coldfield, is open to any woman living with or after any type of cancer or the adverse effects of its treatment and there is no need for a medical referral. The service covers Sutton Coldfield, Erdington, Great Barr, Castle Vale, Burton, Lichfield, Tamworth, Walsall and Cannock.
“We work closely with GPs, nurses and health care professionals to ensure the information is out there for people who need it, but any woman can pick up the phone to us if they need help and support,” said Katherine.
To contact Katherine please call 0300 330 1297 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the St Giles Supportive Care Centre on Lindridge Road, Sutton Coldfield. The centre is shared with the Cancer Support Centre, which also provided valuable help and support for Charlotte and her family.