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‘Don’t wait. Make the most of life’

A LLANDOVERY woman who survived cancer following a diagnosis at the beginning of the pandemic is urging people not to allow fear of coronavirus to stop them from receiving help.

Sarah Portsmouth, 50, who has beaten cancer after undergoing treatments during the Covid-19 pandemic, said that the best thing is to seek help.

She said: “However tough things are right now; they will get better. All the care and treatment and everything that is happening around you are to make sure that there will be better days ahead.”

“You must have an extra element of resilience to go into hospital alone, knowing that you are not going to see your loved ones again until they come and pick you up. However, you have an open mind about your situation and trust that everything has been adapted and procedures have been put in place for you to receive care in the safest and most streamlined way.”

Sarah’s journey began last January when investigations following a GP appointment revealed that she had a large ovarian cyst.

Plans were in place for Sarah to receive a hysterectomy in Singleton hospital, however, non-emergency surgery was delayed due to the pandemic.

Fortunately, collaborative working between Swansea Bay and Hywel Dda meant that Swansea Bay surgeons were able to carry out Sarah’s procedure at Glangwili Hospital instead. 

She said: “It was daunting to think about going to a hospital when this virus is around but when I got there, I realised it was all so very well controlled and I felt very reassured. staff were wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which they changed every time a nurse would see a patient. This made me feel reassured, I always felt very safe.”

“The nurses are lovely because they know that you are without relatives. They provide emotional care as well as for your physical wellbeing. It is amazing to me the things they can do, and how they can adapt to any situation.”

Sarah received six cycles of chemotherapy altogether, and tests revealed that she was cancer-free in October 2020. Although still in recovery from her illness, Sarah said in a recent interview with BBC Radio 5 live that she is starting to finally get a bit of life back within herself.

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She told the station: “Fear and guilt are the main reasons why people are scared to get help. But you must not let fear stop you because everyone now more than ever is focused on taking care of that individual. Everything has been thought of and set up for you so that you don’t have to worry or think. You must not feel guilty either, the services are there with the purpose of helping people who need it. Embrace it and you will feel safe and very well cared for.”

Sarah’s brother Stuart, 60, was diagnosed with cancer early in February 2020 after suffering from stomach pains from what he believed to be a bug. He underwent chemotherapy and also Immunotherapy throughout the year, but sadly lost his battle with the illness when secondary cancer spread to his liver. He passed away in February 2021.

“I am really fortunate, but within the same family, we have had the other extreme with my brother who did not pull through. He was a rock for me. His passing makes me determined to make the best of what I have got. I will get going again and enjoy life and appreciate what it means to be alive.”

“Throughout both of our tales, we received amazing support. Even throughout Covid, the care he received was adapted to best suit his needs, whether it be at home or in the hospital. No matter what the outcome procedures have been put into place with the focus of helping you to receive care in the safest and most streamlined way.”

Jegadish Mathias, Cancer Lead at Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “Although we understand that patients may feel anxious to come into our hospitals during the pandemic, please trust that we have the correct procedures in place to ensure patients are protected. Sarah’s journey shows to all of us just how essential it that people continue to receive care; we will make every effort here at Hywel Dda to ensure the preservation of life and health.”