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Cavell Nurses' Trust providing a beacon of hope

Former staff nurse Michelle Brazier-Huelsman’s breast cancer diagnosis turned her world upside down, but with support from Cavell Nurses’ Trust she remained positive.

Former staff nurse Michelle Brazier-Huelsman’s breast cancer diagnosis turned her world upside down, but with support from Cavell Nurses’ Trust she remained positive  


Picture: iStock

The effect of receiving a diagnosis of cancer is different for each of us. Like the ripples of water in a pond when raindrops fall on the surface, the rings rebound outwardly – and this is how cancer affected me and those close to me.

Fear gripped me from the moment I heard the word cancer. Then came the uncertainty, vulnerability, sheer panic and many other confusing feelings. The diagnosis not only takes hold of your body and mind, but also affects those close to you – especially my two sons

Unavoidable fears

I feared losing employment, surgeries and the side effects after the initial gruelling treatments. I also feared having to go through the physio, pain management and counselling. 

But then came the financial shock: worries about money coupled with the fear of losing the roof over our heads took further hold. My home, once a place of stability, was on the verge of disappearing. I was in a state of panic and desperation. 

I was advised to look for charities that might be able to help and found Cavell Nurses’ Trust, the charity supporting nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants when they are experiencing financial hardship. But I was too embarrassed to ask for help. I felt that I was failing in every way.

I was a general trained surgical and medical nurse and I have worked in other areas of healthcare, including psychiatry and the care of older people. But here I was, a proud, hard-working nurse, who, through no fault of my own, was reduced to asking for financial aid. Cancer had caused the situation. I had no option but to work up until the day before I was due to be admitted for surgery.

'Where I had felt I was drowning, I was now able to breathe again'

Cavell Nurses’ Trust was a lifesaver for me and my family. Like a message from heaven, the charity said it could help. The call came as I was undergoing a painful chemotherapy session, but the news broke through the pain and heartache. Knowing there was support available helped me to believe in life again. Where I had felt I was drowning, I was now able to breathe again.

The charity helped me with paying bills, enabling me to focus on my recovery.

I have worked in healthcare for most of my life and being on the receiving end of nursing care was strange. It is hard not to carefully watch and ask questions without offending or insulting those whose hands you are in, especially during the surgeries and the chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments. 

Medical knowledge

Too much medical knowledge is not always a good thing. Your mind starts to dissect what is going on and comes up with all sorts of unhelpful scenarios. 

I have been diagnosed with cancer on three different occasions and am now in remission. I am going through a positive phase of finding the ‘new me’, and realise that I have not only changed physically, but emotionally, too. This is what cancer does to you. 

Having cancer does not mean that your life is over or that you are no longer of any use. There is life after the fight.

My advice to others diagnosed with cancer would be to remain positive no matter what, and to find the confidence to overcome the hardship and challenges that life throws at you.

If you are a nurse facing personal or financial hardship, contact the Cavell Nurses' Trust for support


About the author

Michelle Brazier-Huelsman is a former staff nurse (currently not working) 

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