“I’ve been treated at The Royal Marsden for over 20 years!”

74-year-old Pauline has been through multiple diagnoses of cancer, recently benefitting from one-to-one prehabilitation and physiotherapy exercise support, which is supported by funding from The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

“I’ve had cancer six times and I’m still here to tell the tale; some people say I’m getting a bit greedy with it!” 

“The first time I received a cancer diagnosis was back in 1988 when I was 39 years old. I had found a lump in my breast and this turned out to be cancerous. My breast cancer has come back several times and I’ve also had cancer in my thyroid, lung and stomach. I was referred to The Royal Marsden so that I could be looked after for the various types of cancer I had – under one roof, in one specialist hospital."

Head and shoulders of a woman with short grey hair, she's smiling and wearing stylish glasses and dark blue and green scarf
Pauline, patient at The Royal Marsden

"It was the best thing ever being moved to The Royal Marsden, I can’t praise the hospital enough.” 

“Over the years, I’ve had:  

  • radioactive iodine treatment and radiotherapy for thyroid cancer 
  • surgery for lung cancer 
  • a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery for breast cancer, as well as palbociclib (a targeted therapy) and letrozole (a type of hormone therapy).” 

“And then, I was just recently diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2023. Every time I’ve had yet another cancer diagnosis, I’ve thought ‘oh here we go again’, but this stomach cancer has been the worst one yet. My symptoms started with eating problems and I lost a lot of weight, but all my tests and scans were showing as fine for ages. This one took a lot longer to diagnose than the other cancers I’ve had. In August 2023 they found the cause – the tumour was across my bowel. I was told I needed quite a big surgery to take two thirds of my stomach away.” 

Getting moving with The Royal Marsden’s Prehabilitation team 

Following a stomach cancer diagnosis, Pauline was referred for one-to-one prehabilitation and physiotherapy exercise support to help her build-up strength before having surgery. Patients who have undergone prehabilitation are more likely to leave hospital sooner after surgery, cope better with the side-effects of cancer treatment, and have better long-term health. 

“I was already quite weak and frail, so it was really important for me to have the prehab support to make me stronger ahead of such a big surgery.” 

“Gemma, (Specialist Cancer Prehabilitation Physiotherapist) and Zoe, (Physiotherapist), supported me in building up my strength. Some of the exercises I did with them are things I’ve never done in my life – I can’t believe they got an old girl like me moving like this!” 

“Their support has really made such a big difference. I was having hourly sessions with them twice a week for about six to eight weeks, right up until a week before my surgery date. I did weight training, sit-ups, stair exercises and sessions on the treadmill! At first, I never thought I’d be able to do the exercises but, in the end, as my strength built up, I really enjoyed them and used to really look forward to my sessions in the physio gym. They also gave me exercises to continue with at home – pre and post-surgery – things like chair exercises and stretches. They are both so lovely and we’ve had lots of laughs together along the way.” 

A physiotherapist in a white uniform, smiling and crossing her arms in a medical room in The Royal Marsden
Specialist Cancer Prehabilitation Physiotherapist, Gemma. Photo Credit: Sam Mellish

“I also felt a lot better mentally from doing all the exercises, which is so important. The team are amazing. They even came to see me after I had my surgery – to help get me out of bed. I told them that if I saw them when I woke up from my surgery, I was going to pretend I was still asleep in case they tried to get me doing weights again!” 

Post-surgery recovery 

Pauline successfully underwent surgery after the Prehab support, which improved her strength and fitness greatly. She has continued to recover well while undergoing the last of her post-surgery chemotherapy treatment.  

“Since my surgery, I’m still doing the exercises that the physio team gave me. I’ve got their contact details and they’ve reassured me that I can get in touch anytime if I still need their support. Post-surgery, I can definitely say that their support before I underwent such a big operation has really helped me. I’d recommend the Physio team to anyone having a big surgery like me, it makes such a difference. It’s brilliant that The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity are funding this.” 

“I’m also under the Dietetics team and see Carol, one of the dieticians, to help with my recovery post-surgery. She supports me with advice around what I can and can’t eat. They removed so much of my stomach that they told me it could take around a year to fully recover from the surgery. 

“My most recent CT scan has come back clear – no evidence of any cancer left in my stomach now which is great news!” 

The Prehabilitation service is continually growing and improving thanks to funding from The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

Your support means that patients like Pauline can have an improved overall care experience, which increases their chances of a better quality of life post treatment. Find out more about how you can support us today.

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