Breast cancer survivor Laraine Campkin will be celebrating her 60th birthday in style by embarking on an epic journey across the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia.
But she says the trip-of-a-lifetime next February would never have been possible without the support and the lymphoedema treatment she received from staff at South Bucks Hospice.
“I will be flying to Tokyo, then Sydney and Perth, as a celebration of my health,” she said.
“The walk across the harbour bridge will take about two hours. You go up high and there are a lot of steps. I could not, without a shadow of a doubt, have done it without the treatment I received at the hospice because my left-hand side would have hurt too much.”
Laraine, a former city bond trader from Gerrards Cross, was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2019 during a routine mammogram.
She underwent a series of operations including mammoplasties, which is breast surgery, and the removal of three lymph nodes. This was followed by a month of radiotherapy. In March 2020, she was told by her surgeon she did not need chemotherapy and that she would be in remission for the next five years.
However, she had to be referred in November 2022 to South Bucks Hospice for fibrosis and severe lymphoedema, which is a side effect of surgery when the removal of lymph nodes causes swelling to parts of the body.
“I couldn’t even sleep on my left-hand side,” said Laraine. “I was in so much pain. Lymphoedema caused significant swelling on the left-hand side which left me in agony.”
Laraine, who is married to David and has two grown-up children, says the treatment at the hospice changed her life for the better.
“I had several sessions with the team and it’s made a massive long-lasting difference. I have got to live with this condition and it’s how you manage it. They teach you exercises to help and I do them – they call me the A star student.”
The hospice, based at Butterfly House in High Wycombe, also gave Laraine several counselling sessions.
“This helped me so much,” she said. “It helped me open up – they felt I kept so much within me and I hadn’t realised I did. I was counselled on how to live with my condition and talk more about it.”
She is so grateful to the hospice that she signed up to be part of its choir.
She said: “When I was first referred to South Bucks Hospice, I was a bit anxious and nervous because there is a traditional image of what a hospice is. But the hospice is my happy place, I love it there, laugh a lot there and everyone is so lovely.”
Before her cancer, Laraine played a huge amount of tennis. But now she keeps fit by going Nordic Walking with poles three times a week, travelling a total of around ten to 15 miles.
She is hugely excited at the prospect of her 60th birthday trip next February which she will take with husband David, whom she refers to as ‘my absolute rock’.
Laraine says the walk over the harbour bridge is a dream for them – but it’s a dream she could not have done without the help of South Bucks Hospice.
“It’s a wonderful place that has literally changed my life and I am so grateful to everyone involved, in particular my specialist lymphoedema nurse Lynn Brooks. I feel blessed that I have access to the wonderful Butterfly House,” she said.
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