TWO women who found friendship and strength in each other during their battle with cancer have set up a new group to stop younger people from feeling isolated by the disease.
Soraya Copley, 34, and Lesley Hardy, 47, have set up Shine Cancer Support in North Tyneside to help younger people, and their families, who are living with cancer.
Soraya, of Eleanor Street in Cullercoats, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 when she was just 29 and during her treatment at North Tyneside General Hospital, North Shields, she found she had no one her age to talk to, leaving her feeling angry and isolated.
She said: “For about four years I didn’t meet anyone my age.
“When I went in for my treatment, I would normally be surrounded by pensioners and whilst cancer is an awful experience whatever your age it is particularly isolating when you’re a younger person. You just feel very angry, singled out and you can’t understand why this is happening to you.”
All that changed, however, when she met Lesley, of Cramlington, who was also receiving treatment for breast cancer after being diagnosed in 2011.
“It just really changed both our lives,” Soraya said.
“For me, my treatment sessions went from being something I really dreaded to something I looked forward to because we would spend time together and talk.
“I think the friendship we had suddenly made us realise what a difference it had made to us and how important it is to have someone who understands what you’re going through.”
Both women are now in recovery and want to use their experience to help others.
Taking their inspiration from Shine Cancer Support in Dorset, Soraya and Lesley’s group will be the first of its kind in the borough to provide a friendship network for people in their 20s, 30s and 40s struggling with all types of cancer as well as the aftermath of the disease.
Mum-of-two Lesley said: “We both felt there were not many young people on the unit and we clung to each other a little bit.
“Soraya felt a big relief when she was about to tell me how she felt and that made us realise there is a real lack of support here for women under 50.
“Cancer is a very different experience for everybody. We want to attract as many people as possible and find out what they want and what support they are looking for.
“It will be varied, with anything from coffee mornings and going for walks to going for a drink at the pub and organising events.”
Soraya, who lives with husband Tom, 34, said: “One of the massive things is to let people know they are not alone.
“For myself certainly, and for many other people, there is a lot of anger to be dealt with. It is such a shock.
“You do not expect to be diagnosed with cancer in your 20s or 30s.
“Once you meet other people you suddenly feel you have not been singled out and you feel less persecuted.
“Another thing that happens when you’re diagnosed with cancer is that your whole attitude to life changes and you realise you have to make the most of life and have as much fun as possible.
“So another part of the group is just to have fun and to make life-long friendships.”
The group plan to meet twice a month at various locations depending on the activity.
People wanting to get involved in the group should contact Soraya at email@example.com