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A Cuisle Story by Catherine

I was diagnosed with breast cancer , my mother had died very distressing from the same disease when I was 13. I am a nurse and as they say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and I often focused on the negative and the fearful.
I coped really well on the surface and I am quite a good patient not given too much complaining and just getting on with it. I wanted to make it easy for my family. But my mother’s difficult death prayed heavily in my psyche and I was often almost overwhelmed with fear.
I tried self help books, read widely, listened to endless CDs all of which gave me insights but still the terror remained. I was stuck. 18 months on and no real respite from the fear within, sometimes it would sleep for weeks and then out of the blue rise up again. It was hard to cope with the physical changes too. I felt so vulnerable.
The staff at the Cuisle Centre were so warm, welcoming and supportive. Invariably smiling and positive. Such a contrast to the hospital environment. On Stella’s suggestion I participated in the five group session facilitated by an experienced therapist. I actually enjoyed them and gained some insights and a had a few laughs along the way.
My core terror and vulnerability remained. I rang Stella once more afraid she would think I was needy or something like that. I need not have been concerned. She quickly saw I was really quite stuck and that individual counselling might be very helpful and she was right. I attended counselling at the centre again I was unsure prior to the first session feeling she might not just get it or worse thought I was been a drama queen. She did get it. Everytime and gradually I became unstuck and the terror and the fear became a distant memory they no longer had a life within me. The sessions were light and enjoyable of course there were some tears but it was amazing to encounter such a level of understanding which of course cleared the way for healing to occur- which did happen.
Cancer, its implications and treatments is quite a load to carry psychologically, physically and spiritually. I image many people (if not most) may not be able to deal with all of their many layered aspects without some kind of outside help. I’m not sure that kind of help exists within normal support structures of life but it does in the Cuisle Centre. From the time I put my foot in the door and experienced the warm and non judgemental non pitying attitude from everyone I met. I just knew this was a good place.
It took a while to access the specific help I needed but Stella made it quite clear they were here on a ongoing basis and I was more than welcome to return if I needed to or wanted to.
I’m now unstuck and very much able to get on with life without any of the old fears breaking through. Had I soldered on on my own – I would not be in this psychologically free place.
I simply needed help and I got it (almost tailor made) here. It’s hard to imagine a more lovely setup and environment. Long may Stella and her staff continue to do so. Their work is immeasurable value to the many people who came through the doors day after day.”

A Cuisle Story by Mairead

“I was diagnosed  with breast cancer. I found a lump in my breast and my life changed when the consultant confirmed it was cancer. Surgery rapidly followed four gruelling sessions of chemotherapy was also completed. I was for fortunate that I could take a year off work . I cried twice over that whole six months, once when I had to tell my class I wouldn’t be there for the last two months and the year and the only other time was at my brother’s birthday. I was so sick from the chemo I honestly thought I was going to die or else dying was preferred option to the sickness that had consumed my body and life.
My mother who was my constant rock, support and carer for my journey she told me that I was in very bad form, irritable, not much fun to be around and she was worried about me. On the advice of a friend I went for acupuncture and it was during my first visit with her that she suggested I attend the Cuisle Centre in Portlaoise. I am not from Portlaoise and thats what appealed to me. I have found verbalising what I experienced and my feelings extremely difficult. Even saying the wards breast cancer was a challenge for me. It’s as if saying it out loud made it real.
I met Stella at the centre who was from the outset friendly, practical, cheeky, encouraging. She offered me yoga, reflexology, individual therapy and group therapy. We chatted about how I was feeling and we settled on three sessions of reflexology. The therapist was warm, understanding kind and she listened to me, just as stella had.
The Cuisle Centre lends itself to a feeling of peace and tranquillity. Lovely art on the walls, tea and coffee always offered on arrival and when leaving, quiet rooms. It dosnt in any way feel like a place where I was going to be confronted with cancer at every opportunity.
From my first reflexology treatment to my last today I feel in such a better place. I feel calm, proud, more confident and almost back to myself. I say almost because I don’t think I’m the same person I was before and maybe that’s not a bad thing.
I would like to acknowledge the very important part that the Cuisle Centre played in how well I am today. They gave me the voice to say how I was feeling. A huge thank you to the Cuisle Cancer Support Centre Portlaoise, a warm, safe and welcoming environment for people diagnosed with cancer. ”

A Cuisle Story by Maureen

“I had breast cancer .After all my treatment I attended the Cuisle Centre because I had unanswered questions going around in my head and did not know where to turn.
The staff in the Cuisle Centre helped me to relax and clear my mind of most of the negative thoughts and how to live again with a positive outlook. While in the centre I met other people that were going or had gone through the same problems and I didn’t feel so lonely. We were able to talk and help each other. My time in the centre was a great help to me and I would like to thank every one attached to the centre for being there for me when I needed help.”

A Cuisle Story by Ruth

“I had never heard of the Cuisle Centre before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was drowning in practicalities after my diagnosis. It wasn’t the illness so much that I was worried about, it was all the practical issues that arose. On meeting Stella she spoke through how to tell my five children ranging from 15 down to 18 months. She guided me through the chemotherapy and the side effects. She gave me information about financial and practical support from the ICS and she organised for me to the reflexologist and counsellor.
We would talk about the chemotherapy and all the side effects. We would talk about my family and how they were all coping and we would talk about me.
When I walked through the front door of the Centre I would immediately relax. It was my space for me. I didn’t have to put on a brave face. I wasn’t a mother or a wife or a daughter. I was just me. During my reflexology, I found myself able to relax and breathe. My mind would stop racing. I could just lie back and listen to the music and stop. With so much to cope with when I was going through chemo this was precious time when I could feel my worries and tensions easing.
Now the Cuisle Centre are going to help me after surgery. I am looking forward to the yoga classes and to building myself back up. With their help I will learn how to live after cancer. I am so thankful for their practical and emotional support. I know I can ring at any time if I, or any of my family, need support.
There are not enough words to sufficiently describe the sanctuary that the Cuisle Centre is for me. But in it’s tenth year to all the staff a big thank you and happy birthday.”

A Cuisle Story by Evelyn

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer . I had surgery and chemotherapy last year at St. James’s Hospital. Last summer, I attended a Cuisle Centre fundraising event with relatives and met a man who recommended the services of the centre to me. He too had been affected by cancer.
After my chemo finished I heard about art classes at the Cuisle Centre and decided to give it a go. I was then introduced to Stella. She did an assessment with me and recommended and arranged for me to have reflexology, drama therapy along with welfare and benefits advice. I was delighted to have all this support offered to me at a time when I felt overwhelmed by my illness.
The reflexology course was relaxing and a great pampering treatment. The drama therapy helped me to explore my emotions and try to understand and deal with the feelings I was having since my diagnosis. Gemma gave me invaluable advice on benefits, entitlements and discussions around returning to work in the future. The weekly art classes are a real opportunity to meet other people affected by cancer as well as been relaxed its help keep my creative side stimulated.
At the start of this year I attended a group therapy programme, Cancer and beyond. It involved art therapy which is so powerful as well as empowering. It also involved people in similar situations to myself, exploring their fears and anxieties through discussion and art therapy. It helped me realise that my own emotions were normal too.
I found it a bit strange walking into the Cuisle Centre as a person looking for help. Being a nurse myself I thought I knew all there was to know about cancer care. I really feel that after a cancer diagnosis, your care doesn’t end at the hospital doors. The services provided to me at the Cuisle Centre have been an extension of that care. I would be of benefit to any cancer nurse to acquaint themselves with the services of their local cancer support centre for the welfare of their patients.
The staff are friendly, accommodating and non judgemental. You immediately get that feeling that everything is dealt with in a confidential manner. Everyone who walks in the door is made feel welcome. I can’t recommend the centre highly enough. Trying to get your life back to normal after cancer is not easy. The Cuisle Centre has been an immense help in allaying my fears for the future.”