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Breast Cancer Care blog

As the only specialist breast cancer support charity working across the UK, we want to be here with support and information right through the festive period, when we know people can sometimes need it more than ever.

I asked one of our online discussion forum moderators – Sam – about the team’s work.

What's the role of the Forum moderators?

They monitor the Forum, which is available via our website 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to make sure it’s a safe place for people to share their feelings and concerns. Moderators also signpost to other services and information, including on our own website.

5734 What sort of posts do you see?

Some are from users recently diagnosed with primary or secondary breast cancer. They are often scared and shocked .  Other users post about treatments and side effects.     

Have you ever found any posts upsetting?

It can be when someone who uses the Forum regularly is having a difficult time.  Some of the posts about a secondary diagnosis and how they are feeling about family can also be upsetting.  This is especially so if I identify with the person posting, for example, if they have children the same age as mine.

What’s your team like?

We are very supportive of each other.  If someone has a problem the others rally round.  I complete the rota and can count on one hand how many times we haven't managed to cover a shift.

What do you enjoy most about working as a Breast Cancer Care moderator?

I feel proud of the work as it helps people in a time of need.  I enjoy the Live Chat sessions too, as I feel more in touch with the individuals.

You’re working during Christmas and New Year. Will that be tough?

It can be, especially if there is a lot of sadness on the Forum, but it can also make me feel blessed with what I have.

What would you say to someone looking for support this Christmas?

The Forum can be quiet so there may not be instant support available. I would tell them our Helpline numberand opening hours and, if things seemed really tough, direct them to the Samaritans.  

Helpline opening hours Christmas 2014

Wednesday 24 December 9am–2pm

Thursday 25 December Closed

Friday 26 December Closed

Saturday 27 December Closed

Monday 29 December 9am–5pm,

Tuesday 30 December 9am–5pm

Wednesday 31 December 9am–2pm

Post date: 19 December 2014

Shirley Harrison (pictured) was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in December four years ago. To support our Christmas fundraising appeal, in which Michele Mayo talks about living with secondary breast cancer, Shirley has shared her experience of living with this diagnosis at Christmas.


'My attitude to secondary breast cancer is, “Who’s in charge here?”.'

This will be my fourth Christmas with secondary breast cancer. I was diagnosed on 23 December 2011. My son came home from university for the holidays and I started chemotherapy just after Christmas.

'Since then, almost everything has also happened around Christmas, like changes to my treatment. In the past three years I’ve been on three hormone treatments, three chemotherapy regimes and a clinical trial. Right now I’m balancing treatment against the quality of life, and at the moment it’s worth it. I’m having the treatment for my husband and son. I’ve told them I’m keeping going for them.

'Since my son was two, we’ve had a tradition of spending Christmases together with another family. We carried on doing that for the first two years of my having secondary breast cancer, but last year I was too unwell and had to go home. Our dog was with us so we couldn’t get a cab, and we had to walk two miles. Walking along feeling so ill and looking in other people’s windows at their Christmases was really miserable.

'I’ve spent a few nights in hospital around Christmas, having emergency scans and tests to see what’s happening and where my tumours are. But having visited hospitals over Christmas several times, I know the hospital can actually be quite a jolly place at this time of year.

'Christmases are “moments” that happen every year and make me pause for thought, and I’m grateful for each one.

'New Year’s Eve isn’t as easy, as my Dad died at that time of year when I was six years old. New Year’s Day can be nice, but I don’t have the usual ‘year ahead’ thoughts.

'Most people don’t understand what secondary breast cancer means. You can’t turn the tide back and there’s no "better". It’s hard for everyone – friends and family – to get their heads around.

'I’ve found Breast Cancer Care’s monthly meetings really valuable. Sometimes we talk about practical things like hair loss and the impact of different treatments, and sometimes we talk about how our families feel about our cancer.

'There comes a point when the crisis passes and you start to live with it, day in and day out. But the other day a friend said that when she puts her Christmas decorations away, she wonders whether she’ll take them out again next year.

'I’ve phoned Breast Cancer Care’s Helpline several times. While I can be pragmatic, talking about how I feel involves tears. But if I cry on a call to the Helpline, I feel safe – I know they can cope with it. They help me feel strong again. 

My attitude to secondary breast cancer is, “Who’s in charge here?” I feel empowered by knowing as much as possible. That’s where Breast Cancer Care helps – giving me the information I need, as much or as little as I want, when I need it.

'Breast Cancer Care makes life easier for patients and their carers.’  

We're here to help

Secondary breast cancer is when breast cancer cells spread from the first (primary) cancer in the breast to another part of your body. This means that the cancer cannot be cured, although it can be treated and controlled, sometimes for years.

Our services for people living with secondary breast cancer include our Helpline and our regular Living with Secondary Breast Cancer meet-ups.

Find out more about our specialist services

Post date: 17 December 2014

We're looking for volunteers to run our unique breast health promotion local workshops that help ensure people can spot the early signs of breast cancer.

We offer around 90 workshops throughout the UK each year. Our Breast Health Promotion Volunteers run the workshops in their local community. At the workshops people learn about breast awareness in a relaxed and friendly setting, including the changes to look and feel for, breast cancer risk factors and caring for their breasts.

Our Breast Health Promotion Volunteers play a key role in delivering vital breast awareness messaging across the UK ensuring more breast cancers are detected earlier when treatment is often more effective.

Meet our Breast Health Promotion Volunteers

Two of our existing volunteers share their experiences of promoting breast awareness and how it feels to know they're making a difference.

Margaret Warriner has been a Breast Health Promotion volunteer since 2004. 


'I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 and again in 2005 so I know how important early detection is. I wanted to help to raise awareness among other women in my local area so that they also know what to look out for, so I signed up to be a Breast Health Promotion Volunteer. 

'It's such a rewarding experience to share this vital information and help improve people's understanding about being breast aware. When you see people leave a workshop feeling far more confident, knowing how to check themselves and what to look for, it really does feel like you've made a difference.' 

Reshma Patel, who's been a Breast Health Promotion volunteer since 2011, is passionate about sharing this vital information in local communities. 


'Many Asian women don’t feel comfortable discussing breast cancer or checking their breasts. I am passionate about sharing vital information about the importance of early detection and being breast aware with as many people as possible. 

'Through my work as a Breast Health Promotion Volunteer with Breast Cancer Care I have provided training in many communities and I see first hand that the positive impact these sessions can have on those who attend.

'I find being a volunteer and giving my time to such a worthwhile cause very fulfilling. It is such a rewarding experience to see people’s confidence and understanding grow throughout the sessions.'

Apply now

We welcome applications from people with or without a personal diagnosis of breast cancer. You'll need to be available to deliver at least four workshops a year. We provide training and support.

Find out more details and about current opportunities in your area by visiting our volunteering pages. 

Visit our volunteering pages and apply today

Post date: 16 December 2014

5830 Christmas and New Year can be a season of making memories with your family, friends and loved ones.

Making memories that you and your family can keep and hold close to your hearts is important, especially if the future is uncertain because of a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer. 

For many people the season can bring mixed feelings as they reflect on the past while also looking ahead to what the coming year may hold.

People who are living with secondary breast cancer may ask the question, 'will I be here next Christmas?' Often the answer is ‘I don’t know’ while for others it's a definite ‘no’.  

Others remember loved ones who are no longer here and many find that having solid memories that were perhaps created together can offer comfort. It's also important for the person with the diagnosis as focusing on making good memories can help them make the best of life.

Memory boxes

As Naomi Thomas has shared in her blog post, some people who know their future is uncertain make memory boxes. They put in items that have a special meaning to them and a particular connection to times, people and places.

Some of the ideas shared on the Breast Cancer Forum are really touching.

One person said that they were going to include photographs of a recent holiday along with the clothes worn in the photographs.

Another with very young children made a cast of her hand so that her children could still hold her hand when she was no longer here to do it in person.

Many people write letters to their children to be opened at landmark times in their lives such as an 18th birthday, an engagement or wedding.

Others write journals with advice they'd offer if they were still here.

A memory box can hold the love of a family member or friend to treasure. It can also be a way of showing your love to those you care most about. 

We're here to help

If you are living with secondary breast cancer, we know Christmas time can be poignant and emotionally difficult, which is often very hard to share with friends and family.

Our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000 is there to provide information and emotional support. It's staffed by breast care nurses and other people with experience of breast cancer. 

Sometimes you might need support when our lines are closed. Our online the Forum community is always available and generally someone is there to connect with and talk to. It's open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and you'll always be welcome. It's there for anyone affected by breast cancer as long as they are over 18. 

Visit the Forum now

At Breast Cancer Care we're sad when we think about people from the Forum, people who've used our services and volunteers who have died because of breast cancer. We miss them, just as we understand that there are people we're in touch with today who won't be here with us this time next year. 

We are thinking of you and wish you all peace and harmony this holiday season.


Post date: 15 December 2014

Responding to research showing that breastfeeding can decrease your risk of breast cancer by a fifth, Jane Murphy, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Breast Cancer Care says:

“Though the research shows that breastfeeding can slightly decrease your risk of getting breast cancer, your risk does not increase if you don’t breastfeed.

“Women who are unable to breastfeed or unable to have children, or women who decide they do not want to have children or choose not to breastfeed, must not worry that this could cause them to develop breast cancer in the future. The biggest risk factors for breast cancer remain out of our control: being female - as over 99% diagnosed are female - and getting older - 80% diagnosed are over 50.


“Anyone with any concerns can call our free, confidential Helpline on 0808 800 6000.”


 For further information, please contact:

 Press team at Breast Cancer Care

 020 7960 3505 (out of hours 07702 901 334)


 Notes to editors

 About Breast Cancer Care

 Breast Cancer Care is the only specialist breast cancer support charity working throughout the UK. We were founded in 1973 by Betty Westgate, who was herself diagnosed with breast cancer. In the ensuing forty years we have supported millions of women and their families through our face-to-face, phone and online services. We also provide training, support and networking opportunities to specialist breast cancer nurses, and Breast Cancer Care publications are used by the majority of breast cancer units throughout the UK. We campaign for better support and care and promote the importance of early detection, involving people with breast cancer in all that we do. Visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk or call our free helpline on 0808 800 6000.

Post date: 12 December 2014