Louise’s story

Following a routine mammogram screening, Louise was told that a lump was found in her breast, resulting in a breast cancer diagnosis in August 2019. This is her story…

September 2019 saw Louise undergo a lumpectomy, removing 20 lymph nodes from her breast. Following this, she experienced 6 months of chemotherapy every three weeks as well as 20 radiotherapy sessions occurring daily, all at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Described as a tranquil place to relax around treatments, visiting the Big C support and information centre in the grounds of the hospital before and after treatments was a relaxing time for Louise and her loved ones. A place in which she was able to access a range of complementary therapies, such as Reiki and gentle massage, as well as simply dropping in for a cup of coffee, a biscuit and a chat with one of Big C’s support and information team.

Louise spoke about the anxieties of losing her hair through treatment. “I was more concerned about losing my hair than survival, immediately following the diagnosis and treatment”, she said.

Following chemotherapy treatments, Louise’s hair began to fall out which eventually resulted in Louise making the decision to shave her head in order to relinquish some control over her diagnosis. Throughout this time in her journey with cancer, Big C supported her with wigs, headwear and styling options.

Close-up photo of Louise Prentice without her hair

When the COVID-19 Pandemic hit in March 2020, Louise was still going through her chemotherapy appointments, meaning that she was now experiencing these sessions alone and feeling increasingly isolated. During this time, Big C services adapted and increasingly services were made available online. Louise spoke of how her weekly phone calls with one of Big C’s clinical nurse specialists as well as regular group therapy sessions were paramount for her mental health and wellbeing during this time.

“Being able to access these support services was vital and allowed me to speak to medical professionals as well as other women experiencing breast cancer”, Louise said. Taking part in online yoga and pilates sessions to support her with mental wellbeing as well as physical health acted as an important part of a routine for Louise throughout the pandemic, when leaving the house due to her health was a risk.

A picture of a green mug with a laptop meeting in the background.

Financial support was also given to Louise in Big C centres including assistance with setting up PIP (personal independence payments) to support her throughout her treatment and reduce financial worries. The relaxing atmosphere of the Big C centres was vital to Louise during diagnosis and treatments as well as following her medical procedures and treatments.

Currently working as a beauty specialist in a major high street beauty store; Louise now also volunteers with ‘Look Good Feel Better’ at Big C’s Norwich City Support Centre. Within these monthly sessions, trained volunteers such as Louise provide advice on issues relating to skincare, shaving and makeup; which often include colour correction, dry skin and loss of eyebrows and eyelashes.

Photo of Louise Prentice at a Look Good Feel Better session

The sessions act as a safe space where Louise feels pleased giving back and supporting those who are in a similar situation to the one she was in, allowing participants to regain some of their confidence. And more than anything, she really enjoys it!

“Big C was my comfort blanket… and I still feel it’s a comfort to come here

Louise Prentice

Louise’s volunteering continues into her role as Vice Chair of the Service User Advisory Board, where herself and other members of the board are able to come together and discuss new ideas about ways in which to support those with cancer locally.

Louise is on tamoxifen for ten years to block the oestrogen levels in her body, preventing the cancer from returning and has annual mammogram screenings. She concludes by saying “I am adamant to live life to the absolute fullest as no one knows how long we’re here for.”


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