After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, and in response to the lack of non-medical based support in the York area for those with a breast cancer diagnosis, Zoe and her friend Rachel founded York Breast Friends. They believe that peer support is very important, having received “amazing support” from an online forum following their own diagnoses. They decided to set up a local support group away from a hospital setting “to provide support to those who have had a breast cancer diagnosis at any point in their life” and to “provide a safe, supportive environment in which people feel supported throughout their cancer diagnosis and treatment and beyond”. The group received a grant from Macmillan in 2014 and has also received support from other charities, e.g. York Against Cancer,
She told me that people deal with their cancer in different ways; some can feel isolated and may need time to come to terms with it. Peer support helps people find a “new normal” and the group offers many different things, including, for example, information, meetings, a Facebook page and also fun and friendship in order to meet the needs of a diverse group of people. “Part of the ethos of the group is that we accept other’s differences. Our members find that it is possible to talk to people with cancer in a way that is almost impossible to talk to family and friends, connections are forged and lifelong friendships are made, providing ongoing support”. The group receives support from Breast Care Nurses, and a variety of breast cancer charities.
Zoe was born in Droitwich. After obtained a BA in Special Educational Needs, she taught in special schools for a number of years specialising in autism and children with behavioural issues. She has a son, a daughter and two stepsons.
Testimonials for York Breast Friends include:
“I can’t thank the group enough, the support I get online is second to none”
“Having had that face-to-face support just after diagnosis from people who had already been there and survived gave me the determination and positivity I needed to start my treatment journey with a smile on my face”
Zoe is also the Project Officer for the Humber, Coast and Vale Cancer Alliance Cancer Champion Programme, delivering awareness sessions educating the general public on the signs and symptoms of cancer and the importance of early presentation. She also works as a delivery Manager for the Cancer Alliance Living With and Beyond Cancer Programme ensuring personalised care is in place for patients undergoing and following on from their treatment. This organisation was set up in 2015 with the vision of improving services, care and outcomes for everyone with cancer. “I’m so thankful to the NHS and it’s staff for the treatment I have received. I certainly wouldn’t be here today without them. It is important to me that I use my lived experience to help improve services for future cancer patients and empower people to take control of their cancer health and support them towards the earliest possible diagnosis where treatments are less invasive and more successful”.
Breast Friends York website
Interview with Zoe Bounds