My name is Madeleine, but I also answer to Maddy and Mads. Unbelievably to me, I’ve been a nurse for 40 years, a profession I adore. I’ve been married to Steve for 38 years and we have 3 children (a daughter and two sons) and a beautiful granddaughter with a grandson on the way.

Both my Nan and Mum were diagnosed with Breast Cancer in the 1990’s and of my mums five sisters, two were diagnosed with Breast Cancer (one subsequently died) and another two had elective risk reducing mastectomies. In the early years of the new Millennium I spoke with my GP of my concerns about the family history and was referred to Withington Hospital, they assessed my risk as 1:3, which was very high, and my yearly mammograms began I was then moved to the Nightingale Centre in 2007. Due to a misunderstanding in 2012, I didn’t receive my yearly appointment and when contacting the Nightingale Centre, a receptionist informed me that I was no longer on the list for yearly mammograms and if I wished to go back on it, I would have to reapply through my GP. I decided not to reapply and stick with the 3 Yearly appointments.

Moving forward to February 2019, my sister had asked me to go with her to attend her mammogram appointment at the Nightingale Centre. Whilst sat waiting for her I was thinking about our Mum and how she had been diagnosed again with breast cancer and maybe I should ask to be seen again by the Family History Unit. I spoke to one of the breast care nurses and I was subsequently sent an appointment with Professor Howell.

Professor Howell told me that my risk at 58 yrs old was still 1:3, it should have reduced as I lived through breast cancer free years.  We also discussed ways of reducing my risk and put a 6 month plan in place and I also had a mammogram. !! My actual routine mammogram wasn’t due for another 18 months. !!

Not long after, I received a letter telling me that I had an abnormal mammogram and it needed further investigation. On attending my ‘further investigation’ appointment they showed me the picture which identified a black lump in my left breast;

A slightly unscientific back story at this point: between having my mammogram and getting the letter I had gone to my sisters with my husband who was putting a mirror up for her. She has a lurcher called Tiger, who is always very pleased to see me. On this particular day he sat on the arm of the chair that i was sat in and started to act a little unusually. He proceeded to nudge my left breast for the duration of our visit regardless of the number of times I pushed him away. So when i got my letter I just knew the abnormality was going to be in my left breast, his behaviour had been unusual but he had obviously picked up something different in me. I’ve recommended the Nightingale Unit get a couple of Lurcher assistants😉

Back to my ‘abnormal’ appointment, I had my ultrasound guided biopsies. It was slightly surreal lying there looking at the black lump on the screen, knowing in my own mind that it was cancer. The consultant that performed  my Biopsies told me it was the size of a small olive…it’s took me several months before I could buy olives again, whenever I went shopping I found myself eyeing them up with great suspicion.

I was due to get my results in a week but as we were going to Center Parks with the family i had to wait a bit longer for my results, as they are given face to face. Its a very strange feeling keeping such a huge secret from the people around you, you feel like your slightly out of sync with the rest of the world.

My husband Steve came with me to my results appointment and we were told i had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in the left breast. I was given my options, but also told that i had to take into consideration our strong family history. I wouldn’t say it was an easy decision but I already knew what I was going to do, which was a Bilateral Mastectomy. Not to beat around the bush, I had huge boobs and I wanted to mitigate as much of my risk as possible. I met my lovely breast care nurse Claire Liu who over the coming weeks explained everything to me and showed me lots of before and after pictures.

My surgeon Mr Robert Johnson and his team were fantastic, I think for me, having confidence in his abilities for this mammoth (pun intended) task was very important and the bonus was that he and his team were all very kind and compassionate.

 On April 2nd I had my Sentinal Node injection and had my Mastectomy and Sentinel nodes removed the following day. I had Expanders put in, in preparation for the next operation to install the implants, the Expanders weren’t particularly comfortable. I will not deny the first 24hrs were physically incredibly difficult and i was discharged the following day but i followed Claire my breast care nurses advice, which was take your pain relief. I didn’t need to be told twice.

Prior to leaving hospital one of my drains had accidently been pulled out, they should remain in position for at least a week. Over the next week I started to have flu like symptoms and shivering. Mr Johnson felt that i had a Seroma, which is a collection of fluid when tissue has been removed. This had occurred because of the missing drain. As a consequence of this, my reconstruction surgery (implants) was brought forward. I had my second surgery in June, which was to replace the expanders with implants and some further skin reduction which went very well and was a lot easier than the first.

I am still under the care of Mr Johnson and have made an excellent recovery I have had fantastic support from my lovely husband Steve, my family, friends and my Clinical  Lead at work, Audrey.  Although no one wants to be told they have Breast Cancer the experience i have had has been positive due to the expertise, kindness and compassion from the staff on the Ward and at the Nightingale Centre.

My motivation for becoming a Boobee is down to the treatment and care I have received over the years. And I am now in a position to be able to give a little something back by helping spread Breast Cancer awareness to the women and men of Manchester. The thing that I am processing at the moment is the “what if” which I didn’t expect. What if I hadn’t gone to the Nightingale unit with my sister and had just had my routine mammogram 18 months later!! What would my outcome have been then…I’m sure that it would have been so very different.

My daughter will now be looked after by the Family History Unit and in the future my gorgeous 2yr old granddaughter will also be looked after. It would be great to think that when she is a young woman we will be well on the way to accurately Predicting, Preventing and Protecting our future generations against Breast Cancer with the help and research of the Prevent Breast Cancer Charity.

Margo Cornish