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The idea for a telephone help-line was as a direct result of my own breast cancer experience. At the time of diagnosis, there was not a counselling service available that addressed my specific needs. I felt very isolated and alone.

I was diagnosed as 'probably' having breast cancer in April 1993. I will never forget the fear that began with that first visit to a consultant. When I heard the word 'cancer' it was 'death' that resonated in my head. After the initial shock which usually has a numbing effect on most patients, I set up regular counselling sessions with a friend who lived close by. Part of me wanted to go to bed and stay there until any treatment was over. Counselling gave me the space and support to explore the worst case scenario in a safe and supportive environment and helped me to function with a little more ease until I was admitted in to hospital four weeks later to have what was called a 'frozen biopsy' ( a small part of the tumour taken away to a lab and tested. The result was positive and I underwent a mastectomy.) If I had not had contact with people who had counselling expertise, I fear I may have fallen apart, or had to rely on medication to get me through those early weeks. People who are diagnosed with cancer, often end up having to support the people they have told.

To lose a breast in a society that puts so much emphasis on body image, is traumatic and has a devastating effect on the self esteem of many women and an equally damaging effect on partners, family and friends.

Unfortunately, resources are still limited and often not adequate to meet immediate and long term needs of people affected by breast cancer. I feel lucky to have recovered well, both physically and emotionally through my own determination and counselling support.

Since 1994, when a telephone help-line was launched in my home town of Frome, I have been committed to providing a free service which will nurture and support as many people as possible, who find their lives torn apart by the devastating effects cancer. PAC employs a qualified, professional counsellor.

Last Year (2000), PAC was supported by lottery funding to embark on a feasibility study, which clearly showed a need for the service we offer. No comparable service like PAC exists in Mid Somerset and possibly the whole of Somerset. The Stroud & Swindon are a continuing sponsor of ours and we have a town centre office suite donated by them.

PAC has now expanded and offers free professional counselling to all people affected by breast cancer and other cancers.

Jill Miller

The Project