Mary's Story

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Mary's Story

I’m Mary, aged 64, and in 2011 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries wasn’t around when I got diagnosed, but there are so many points in my story where I can look back and say for certain that it would have helped me. Mary O'Donnell 2.png

After attending a routine mammogram I was recalled for a second appointment. I wasn’t concerned really, and then the doctor started asking me questions about whether there was any history of breast cancer in my family. I thought ‘why is she asking me these questions?’. I was taken for a biopsy later that day and subsequently told that I had cancer.

It was only 3 weeks later that I went into hospital and had a lumpectomy and some lymph tissue removed. I was bandaged up and thought ‘right, that’s surgery over’ - I was wrong. Three weeks later when I was back in the hospital having bandages removed and receiving follow up scans, I was told that the cancer was not gone. I had to have my breast removed and then chemotherapy - it came as such a shock. The morning of the surgery I remember so clearly a moment where I couldn’t stop crying in front of the consultant - she asked me why I was crying, I just wanted to shout at her ‘you are about to take away one of my breasts!’.

The hardest part of my cancer experience was losing my hair, I know it might sound silly, but I was absolutely devastated. I remember I was going to have a nice day, I started getting ready to go to a wedding. I ran a nice relaxing bath and was washing my hair when it happened. It was coming out in clumps in my hands. Eventually I shaved my head, wore headscarves and had a wig. In the hospital I picked up leaflet after leaflet about how to cope but now, with the Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries service, you can pick up leaflets in your local library and talk to a volunteer about what you are going through.

I realised that the service was for anyone affected by cancer, no matter how long ago​​
I think I was lucky. I had great support from friends and family. Sometimes I felt awful because I was so crabby with them when I was going through treatment and on steroids, but they were there for me. I work in Glasgow Libraries so when I went back to work, after a year, my colleagues were a great support too. Like I said, I was lucky. Not everyone has support already around them and that’s why Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries is so important.

When the drop in service started in Partick, I thought it was great - but I didn’t think it was for me because my cancer diagnosis and treatment was over. After the volunteers had spoken to our staff team I realised that the service was for anyone affected by cancer, no matter how long ago. I have accessed the support in Partick L​ibrary and, with the added benefit of free complementary therapy sessions*, this has made me really feel good, relieved stress and allowed me to relax.

When you have a cancer diagnosis, your head is all over the place. Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries is available in convenient, easy to access locations; to know that support is readily available somewhere comfortable, somewhere local like a library, is amazing. 

*Provided in partnership with Cancer Support Scotland.​
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