When lockdown began, Lori Delaney was plunged into a darker and more lonely place than most of us could ever imagine.

The mother-of-two had only recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and had just embarked on a course of agonising chemotherapy.

Despite the ordeal, until that point she had felt supported and safe within the system, receiving phone calls every other day from nurses and receiving plenty of support from family and friends. But overnight, that support was taken away.

“There was this big thing happening in my life and I was everyone’s priority and then the pandemic hit. The pandemic was the priority.

“All of a sudden, there were no phone calls. It felt like everything stopped. It was very difficult for my mum because she wanted to be here and couldn’t. I felt so lonely, there was nobody able to help me.”

Mrs Delaney, 34, from Glasgow, was forced to continue her chemotherapy treatment alone, travelling to the local hospital when most people were desperate to keep away, which left her “absolutely terrified”.

Meanwhile, her husband had to begin working from home and she was left to look after her children, then aged four and five, when nurseries and schools closed their doors.

This, despite the fact that the chemotherapy had made her so ill she had previously been hospitalised and her mother had taken the children to give her some space to recover.

“That third treatment was horrific,” she said. “I didn’t want my children to hear me screaming in pain or hallucinating. It’s not a choice I would make as a mother, but those choices were taken away. I felt really helpless and unsupported.

“Knowing that you can’t have any more children – there’s a whole mental side to it – and there was no space to heal or grieve or have any recovery.

“Then, there were all these Whatsapp group chats from parents about home schooling and I really felt the pressure. I actually set up a home school in my conservatory, because that’s what people were doing. Looking back, I just don’t know how I did that.

“I felt guilty as well because every day I felt I needed a break. There was a lot to deal with. I knew I wouldn’t be able to have any more children. There was no space for me to grieve or to heal or to have any recovery.”

Mrs Delaney was contacted by her oncologist, who suggested that she end her treatment early to avoid the risk of catching coronavirus.

“I knew that everyone in the NHS was doing their best to deal with the pandemic but it’s not a choice I wanted to be making,” she said.

“I was desperate. All I care about is being alive. Stopping chemo would give me a better quality of life through the pandemic but at what cost?”

When she eventually finished radiotherapy, she had to ask a nurse if she could ring the bell to mark the end of her treatment – a goal she had focused on for months.

But rather than the triumphant moment she had envisaged, she was left feeling “silly” as the nurse had to get it out of a cupboard and disinfect it, and then, there was only the odd stranger to see her ring it.

The results of her last scan were clear but she will continue to be on treatment for the next 10 years. 

Mrs Delaney is supporting Cancer Research UK. To help the charity continue its vital work visit cruk.org

 

 

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