Over the last decade, Diane Holt has provided one-on-one phone support to people diagnosed with cancer and cancer survivors through the Cancer Connect program.
It’s an experience Diane understands because she is a breast cancer survivor.
A routine screening that led to a cancer diagnosis
In May 2011, Diane went for a routine mammogram – something she kept up with regularly – but this time, she received a call back.
“After a second mammogram and a biopsy, I was diagnosed with high grade cancer cells in my breast & was told it was Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) – a form of breast cancer.”
Although her GP told her she was ‘lucky’ as her cancer wasn’t invasive at this stage, Diane wanted to understand all the details of her diagnosis & get information that made sense to her.
“It was an intense experience from diagnosis to making treatment decisions. I had three operations in one month, culminating in a mastectomy & breast reconstruction. It took a long time for me to recover & feel whole again.”
When she was first diagnosed, Diane only wanted to share the news with her family.
“It was important to me to have control over who knew and how much I shared.”
“I made sure that things were explained clearly so they could understand my diagnosis, ask questions and feel reassured (rather than scared and stressed), especially when telling my sons.”
Helping others through Cancer Connect
Long before volunteering for Cancer Connect, Diane used the service herself when she was diagnosed with cancer.
“I was pretty private about who I wanted to talk to about my diagnosis and treatment,” she recalls.
“Cancer Connect gave me the information, emotional support and reassurance I needed to face each cancer decision confidently and share my feelings and fears in a safe, confidential space.”
After completing her treatment, Dianne trained as a Cancer Connect volunteer so that she could help others facing a similar situation. This year marks her 10th year as a volunteer.
“It’s been such a rewarding experience and a special way of giving back,” she says.
By drawing on her own lived experiences, Diane has been able to listen, comfort and share openly with people who have been diagnosed with cancer.
“At first, many people feel totally overwhelmed and confused, alone and very vulnerable. They often need some help and hope to put things into perspective, to see themselves in the driver’s seat and their cancer as the passenger, and to work out that there is a way to move forward and that there is life after cancer.”
“Going into survivorship is another phase of the cancer experience,” she says. “You’re living with the consequences of treatment, and those physical, mental and emotional effects may be as difficult and distressing as the treatment itself.”
“Having Cancer Connect available to people coming out of treatment helps them to keep moving forward and avoid feeling stuck in an unknown space. It’s empowering.”
Diane’s tips to cancer survivors
Take time to heal on the inside and outside, physically and emotionally, and learn to accept how you have changed along the way.
Celebrate your recovery milestones (both big and small) and remind yourself how resilient you are.
Notice what stresses you and plan some regular time to rest, reflect and relax. At times you may need to be flexible and adjust what you expect of yourself and others.
Try to get some regular exercise and eat well to stay healthy, happy and cancer free.
Give and receive help and support when it’s needed, and become self-nurturing (that is, learn to be patient and kind to yourself) because being grateful is a gift for life.