Real Stories
25 October 2023

Gillian's Story

"How hypnotherapy helped me following breast cancer diagnosis"

Gillian Holden slide
Real Stories
25 October 2023

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual event which raises awareness of the disease and aims to encourage people be more aware of the symptoms and to check their bodies regularly.

By far the largest number of CancerCare clients seek help from us after receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer, either themselves or within their families.

Gillian Holden from Heysham was diagnosed with breast cancer following a routine breast screening in October 2019. Thankfully, Gillian’s cancer had been caught in its early stages and was successfully treated, however, she began to feel anxious and concerned that it would return so she was put in touch with CancerCare by the Breast Cancer Team at Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

Gillian was invited to a special breast education event at our Slynedales Centre and was later referred for one-to-one therapy.

“I knew that I needed some help but didn’t know what or how. I had mixed emotions at this point. The thought of going to a new place and talking to a stranger left me feeling overwhelmed but the thought that I was being offered help was a huge relief. I just wanted to find my old me,” said Gillian.

Gillian opted for a series of hypnotherapy sessions with therapist Anne-Marie Flynn as she was keen to develop coping strategies and tools to help her face the future. However, she was initially apprehensive.

“I dreaded my first session. I was too scared to drive and felt like I was barely functioning. I was made very welcome at Slynedales and Anne-Marie was very kind and welcoming. The first session was an informal chat mixed in with a scientific explanation of what was happening in my brain. By the end of the first session I felt that Anne-Marie completely understood that I was going through.

By the end of third session, Anne-Marie’s help had already begun to have a dramatic impact on her well-being – not just mentally but also physically.

“I realised that we weren’t going to talk about the past as it can’t be changed. With this realisation, the noise in my head was suddenly quieter. I felt more relaxed and content. As the weeks progressed there were so many positive changes in my mood. My sleep improved, my smile returned, my chronic back pain eased and I was able to reduce the amount of painkillers I needed. I felt more able to cope with whatever life threw at me,“ said Gillian.

“There were a few tears at first but subsequent sessions involved a lot of laughter and joy. My family noticed a difference in my well-being. They said I was less snappy, less tired and more fun to be around. I don’t feel that I found my old ‘me’, but I found a new ‘me’ that I like even better!”

Gillian is urging women to be aware of the symptoms of breast cancer and ensure they see their doctor with any concerns.

“My breast cancer was discovered through routine screening and caught very early. I had no lump or other symptoms. It is so important to check your breasts and investigate as soon as possible any signs that could be cancer, but it’s equally important to attend regular screening when offered, not just for breast cancer,” said Gillian.

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