I needed somewhere to go to talk about my fears and my worries

When she was battling breast cancer, Kasia Kowalski decided to reach out and seek support from ARC House. Today we continue our series of interviews with women who have battled breast cancer, to mark Cork Pink Week.
I needed somewhere to go to talk about my fears and my worries
Kasia Kowalski.

LIFE was pretty good for mother-of-two Kasia Kowalski before she was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 41, in 2017.

“I was fortunate I had a positive attitude dealing with the diagnosis,” says Kasia. “I said, ‘I’m going to do this. It’s fine’.”

She underwent a medical treatment plan in Cork University Hospital involving chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. But while cancer treatments may, and do, kill the cancer, they don’t stave off the fear and anxiety surrounding breast cancer that one in nine women in Ireland will develop in their lifetime.

“During the initial treatment, I felt brave and positive,” says Kasia. “Then my resilience and resistance became low and a nurse suggested that I reach out and avail of extra support. I had begun to experience frightening anxiety and panic attacks before my treatment sessions.”

ARC house was waiting to welcome Kasia and help alleviate her fears.

“I was introduced to ARC House and the wide range of services it provides,” says Kasia. “I met a support counsellor first and that became a regular meeting every couple of weeks. I found it very beneficial to speak to someone who could tell me what to expect going through, and after, treatment. It was very important for me to have that outlet.”

The additional support boosted Kasia at a vulnerable time in her life.

“I was doing my best to keep a positive attitude for my friends and for my family,” she says. “They were already worried enough. I didn’t want to worry them anymore.

“No matter how strong you may think you are, you are not super-human. I know I needed that place to go and talk about my fears and worries. The volunteers at ARC House are so understanding.

“I could talk to the counsellor and avail of the services at ARC House free of charge. Having no added financial stress, which was one less worry. You didn’t have to think about where you’d get the money for the extra support, which is very important.”

It was vital for Kasia to meet other women in the same situation for moral support. “Another bonus for me was being part of a support group when I had finished all my treatment,” says Kasia.

“You are still in ‘cancer mode’ after finishing your treatment and it was great to talk to other women who had experienced the same as I had. You receive a greater understanding from a person who has gone through the same as you — the same pain, the same fears.” Kasia’s allies were familiar with the effects of the invasion of breast cancer in their lives.

“The women totally understood,” said Kasia. “You didn’t need to explain. A nod of the head indicated they just knew. And they know that you know.”

Kasia got to know her new friends well: “We continued to stay in contact and meet up. We took part in the Evening Echo Women’s Mini Marathon in September to raise funds for ARC House. It was a nice way to get together again and a nice way to give something back to ARC House.”

Her life is back on track.

“Breast cancer fundamentally changes who you are,” says Kasia. “It changes what you want from life. I’m all good now and I’m feeling my energy is restored.”

A new phase of her life had begun.

“Nothing is the same as before,” says Kasia. “Life is back to normal, but it is a new normal.”

ABOUT ARC HOUSE

ARC stands for Aftercare, Research and Counselling.

Their services are open to adults diagnosed with cancer, parents who have children with cancer, adult family members and friends.

Their main centre, Cork ARC Cancer Support House is based at 5, O’Donovan Rossa Road, Cork and is open Monday to Thursday, 9.30am-4.30pm. Services available, usually by appointment include:

Counselling.

Dedicated Breast Care Service.

Therapeutic Massage & Reflexology.

Yoga & Meditation.

Tai Chi.

Information on General Welfare/ Benefit .

Support Groups Information.

Workshops.

Individual Support is available for one-to-one appointment. Support Groups are facilitated in a safe space where people who are finished their cancer treatment can share experiences and learn tools to help them move on with their lives. Friday: 9.30am-3.00pm Phone: 021-4276688 Email:ellen@corkcancersupport.ie

CONTACT

ARC House, Knocknaheeny, Harbour View: Open Thursdays 10.00am- 12.30pm. Phone: 021-430 0135.

ARC House Bantry, The Bungalow, Gories: Open Tuesday 10.00am-4.00pm. Thursday 10.00am-4.00p.m. Phone: 027-53891. Email:westcork@cancersupport.ie

Cuan House, 29 Friar Street, Youghal: Open Wednesdays from 10am. Phone: 024-91654.

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