‘Cancer is the loneliest place in life. The loneliest spot’

Stephanie Powell believes treatment is good but that cancer survivors need more support

Stephanie Powell (65) from Newbridge, Co Kildare, was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2011.

Ms Powell underwent surgery to remove a lump in her breast at St James’s Hospital in Dublin within two weeks of her diagnosis and subsequently had another operation to remove surrounding tissue.

She said her medical treatment “could not have been any better” but added “I would be very adamant there’s not enough support for survivors”.

The new National Cancer Strategy has recommended cancer survivorship programmes be developed for patients with cancer while each cancer centre should establish a dedicated service “to address the psycho-social needs of patients with cancer and their families”.


Ms Powell has been taking preventative drug Tamoxifen for the last five years and now only has to visit her oncologist once a year.

“You’re in limbo when you’re finished your treatment. It’s all grand when you’re going from treatment to treatment and appointment to appointment. But when you’re told to come back in three months, six months or a year’s time, then it’s up to you to look after yourself,” Ms Powell said.

Family burden

“We do need more back-up support for families as well. I watched my 24-year-old daughter doing all the looking after me, attending all my treatments and appointments. It’s an awful burden on a family, I worried about my daughter.”

Ms Powell set up a cancer survivors’ walking group in Newbridge to talk to people who had gone through a similar experience.

“I have to say cancer is the loneliest place in life. When you’re diagnosed with cancer, it is the loneliest spot,” she said.

“I could have called the Irish Cancer Society’s nurses at night following my treatment, but to me my worries were not as important as other people going through it who couldn’t cope.

“It would have been lovely to have someone to talk to and that’s why I started the walking group because I feel there wasn’t enough support for survivors.

“I’ve spoken to a number of people and they’ve all said the very same thing – who do you talk to? Who do you have there, aside from your own children? You don’t want to be discussing it with your children, your sisters, brothers. You need an independent party there to talk to.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times