Moving forward after breast cancer

Discussing cancer treatment support groups. Moving forward after cancer 1362439001.jpg

Being diagnosed with cancer is a life-changing experience – suddenly there are hospital appointments, treatment recommendations and decisions that need to be made, often in a short space of time. Hospital quickly becomes your second home, your clinical team become a second family and getting through treatment becomes a focal point for you and your loved ones. But what happens when treatment ends and life is supposed to go back to ‘normal’?

The Moving Forward Course was established through the Wellbeing Space at The Christie Private Care, part of HCA Healthcare UK. It brings together people who are coming to the end of their curative cancer treatment and is facilitated by a team of cancer experts. This creates a safe, open and supportive environment, for these small and informal groups to get together and share their experiences whilst gaining practical and emotional advice on how to navigate the challenges of life after cancer treatment.

We caught up with Rachel Byrne, Specialist Review Radiotherapist, Wellbeing Lead and Co-Founder of The Wellbeing Space and Dr Kate Harrison, Consultant Psychologist & Co-Founder of The Wellbeing Space, to find out more about the group and to hear from some of the people that have benefitted from joining.

We know that for many people nearing the end of their curative cancer treatment it’s often not as simple as just getting back to ‘normal’. There can be an expectation from themselves and the outside world to move on, but for many navigating life after cancer treatment is challenging. The Moving On Course is designed to provide practical and emotional support with expert guest speakers covering everything from diet and exercise, mindfulness and coping strategies to intimacy – but most of all it’s a safe space for a community of people who have been through a similar experience to share their stories and support one another.

The groups are deliberately small - often no more than ten people to avoid people holding back or getting lost within the group. We have also split the groups into separate male and female groups as we feel that people are more comfortable opening up this way.” – Rachel Byrne, Specialist Review Radiotherapist, Wellbeing Lead and Co-Founder of The Wellbeing Space.

Helen has participated in the Moving Forward Course and shared with us

When you are nearing the end of treatment and people say, ‘Oh you must be so glad that your treatment is all over’ the fact is, that you probably have more questions and more anxiety than ever before. There are so many things that are unresolved and so many issues that sit outside the traditional boundaries of medicine and care, but nonetheless are really important to talk about and taking that step – when for the last few months you have been cossetted from normal life – is well, scary.

What your course does is provide the most wonderful safety net, a bridge, a transition period, a time to reflect on what has happened. A place to ask those unanswered, silly, serious, unresolved questions and a place where in my case, I met 10 wonderful other women – with whom I could share how I felt, without fear of judgement and knew that they just got it. The subjects you covered right from the get go, everything from sleep to nutrition, exercise and mental health were delivered in a really informative way, allowing everyone to have a voice, allowing us to have a tremendous amount of fun (which is something you cannot underestimate after 11 months of treatment) but more importantly giving us the tools to take back our normal lives. The facilitators were all excellent and had a real understanding of what we had been through and this allowed us all to have some, really great open discussions. I am deeply grateful for you asking me to come along and for everything I have learnt along the way.

Dr Kate Harrison is Co-Founder of The Wellbeing Space and leads some of the sessions on the Moving Forward Course. She added:

There are so many aspects to finishing cancer treatment, from the emotional and physical relationship you have with yourself and those closest to you, right through to the very practical aspects of life after cancer treatment, such as returning to work, re-establishing your confidence, and living with the anxiety of long-term, clinical follow-up. While every individual has their own unique experience, emotions and circumstances, some of these challenges are common and it’s important for women to know they are not alone, there is professional help and support, but there is also the comradery of connecting with other women who have a unique insight and mutual understanding.

Jane, who recently completed the Moving Forward Course says

The content of every group has been interesting and useful. I left every week with a new sense of purpose and the confidence to make changes. The exercise group gave me the confidence that I could start to rebuild my battered body, the nutrition helped me understand that balance and not faddy restrictive diets are the way forward. The models to help me understand reasons why I felt like I did and the joy of understanding I am not alone and that the other ladies in the group had the same fears and challenges. I have laughed and cried, reflected and grown and felt when I had a challenge I could share it in my safe space on a Thursday.

Challenges like dealing with the family while making space for me and setting boundaries, managing work pressures and just ‘getting on’ with life have all been possible because of this course. So often courses like yours are undervalued, but please can you share my feedback wisely so that this continues and grows. The value of these last few weeks is immeasurable, you have supported me in a way I never thought possible, guided me through the trepidation and fear of my first post-op scans, and I will never be able to thank you enough.

Moving forward after cancer treatment. It can be difficult to talk specialist support 1354857441.jpg

It can be difficult to talk about cancer and the deeply personal impact it can have on you and your relationships. Rachel added:

A lot of women are initially apprehensive about being open and sharing so much with people that they haven’t met before. They often don’t think that it’s ‘their kind of thing’ or they don’t feel confident vocalising their feelings, but in fact so many people have surprised themselves with how much they embraced being part of the group. Some just come to listen, and that’s OK too.

Most groups even start up their own group chat and continue to meet up socially, which I think is a wonderful additional support network for them to have in the long-term and testament to the amazing relationships that are formed through the course.

This sentiment is echoed by Lisa in her reflections of her experience of the Moving Forward Course

I appreciate that some individuals may be a little bit hesitant…I encourage anyone who gets the opportunity to attend this course, you must do so. Not only did I receive some wonderful content and tools which I can reflect upon and use to support me in my recovery and rehabilitation, I met the most special group of women and by this I don’t just mean the people in my group, I also mean all the wonderful specialists who joined our sessions to support us.

How to access The Wellbeing Space

The Wellbeing Space is available to patients who have received cancer treatment at The Christie Private Care, part of HCA Healthcare UK. If you are a patient at The Christie Private Care and would like to find out more about the courses available, please contact or 

Similar support services are available across HCA Healthcare UK – please contact your care team for more information on how to access these services.