“I never thought for one minute that I’d find myself here with a story to tell...
My life is, I consider, fairly run of the mill. I’m a 53 year old, married mum of 3 grown up children and a stepson.
In between all the stresses and strains of running a business and a family I never stopped to think that something that I take so much for granted could be taken away from me...my health...because I simply don’t have the time to be ill!
I’m like most of you, I guess. I enjoy a few too many glasses of wine, plenty of good food and battle at the gym to compensate. I’ve never smoked and always tried to look after myself without depriving myself of a good time!
I’m not really a lady who lunches but certainly a girl who likes to have fun and I’ve sat many times at charity events to help raise money for good causes, much of the time this has been for cancer charities and in particular one that I never thought would affect me..... Breast cancer.
I always dig deep at the raffle and the auction and help as much as possible as, after all, we all know a friend, or a friend of a friend who has been affected by this dreadful disease. Personally, I lost one of my closest school friends to Breast Cancer 3 years ago at the age of 49. She was one of the very unlucky ones. Her breast cancer was aggressive and it took hold of her body in a very short space of time. It was heart breaking for us all to stand by and watch helplessly and it was the first time that I really started to think about my own mortality as I fast approached 50.
50......oh yes....many of you girls will know only too well what comes with that magical age:
Hot flushes, night sweats, foggy brains, as well as the hangovers that take longer to get over, diets that take longer to work ....if at all..... and the gym that seems to hurt even more bits than ever before!!! and of course the first NHS letter asking inviting you to attend a mammogram.
I got mine, I went and it was of course perfectly clear. I didn’t think about it again.
3 years drifted by and on holiday in late October last year, lying in the sun contemplating the impending nightmare that is Christmas, my husband and I discussed how 2019 was going to be a year of good health, less wine, no chocolate, fewer meals out, no cheese tasters from M&S ........we were going to teach 54 a lesson!
And there on my sun bed it dawned on me that I hadn’t had a mammogram? It had been 3 and a half years.
I thought it was odd but I wasn’t in the slightest bit concerned as I had always checked my breasts religiously at least once a month but nonetheless when I got back home I rang my GP and although they didn’t know why I had been missed, within a week I had an appointment through the post for my mammogram..............Thank goodness I remembered!!
On the 7th December I went along to Warrington Hospital, which has an excellent Breast Screening unit and after a lot of extremely uncomfortable squeezing and squashing I left feeling pretty relieved that that would be it for another 3 years.
Then I got a letter a week later to say they needed me to go back for some more tests as the results had been unclear. But not to worry as this was very common. I did worry..... I googled it!! In fact I googled it to death! However, I concluded it was nothing. I felt no lumps, I had no dimples or discharge, I had dense breast tissue, that’s what I had. I was fine and more importantly I had a Christmas party to organise on 23rd December!!
The 23rd December was brilliant. Fun, family, friends...fantastic food, way too much fizz and a very late night!!
Feeling slightly ropey, I returned to the hospital at 10.10am on Christmas Eve for my repeat tests, it meant we had plenty of time to do a quick dash for last minute provisions to M&S on the way home.
When I walked into the room, I just knew. There were two doctors and they both looked glum. Two biopsies later and my whole world came crashing down.
“I am sorry to tell you, but you have cancer...you have it in 4 places in your right breast”
“We don’t think it has spread to your lymph nodes but it’s going to be a MASTECTOMY!!”
“It’s better to know now than have it hanging over you for Christmas...”
At least that’s what I think they said...I just heard the words “Breast cancer” and with that I was planning my funeral...Happy Christmas Jackie!!!
Anyway, onwards and upwards and 24 hours later the hostess with the mostess delivered Christmas lunch...a goose, a turkey, all the veg, a full vegan option, and 2 types of gravy... all without the mention of a funeral!!!! We decided we weren’t going to tell the family until Boxing Day.
However, following 2 party games, several espresso martinis and a very emotional ‘Call The Midwife’, I could contain myself no longer! I blurted the bad news out and had everyone stunned and in tears. My timing had been less than perfect!!
Following a good night’s sleep, however, we sat down as a family and they reminded me how strong I was and how I was going to face this head on and not let it beat me. I had their love and support and that’s all I needed.
The whole of January passed in a complete haze. I felt numb. My husband Rob was amazing. He immediately leapt into action researching who was top of the game in the North West for Breast cancer surgery. Through a friend’s recommendation we were led to my wonderful surgeon ,Mr Lester Barr. Within the following 3 weeks I had 2 surgeries to remove the sentinel lymph node and then the whole breast and reconstruction. The care that I received from Lester and his specialist team including Stella his fabulous nurse has been amazing.
After an anxious wait, to my utter joy I found out recently from my oncologist at the Christie Hospital that as the cancer had been contained wholly in the breast, I didn’t need to have Chemotherapy or radiotherapy, instead I will receive Hormone therapy for 5-10 years.
I have been very very lucky!!!
My experience has humbled me and made me determined to do everything I can for myself to help prevent the cancer from ever coming back. But I also want to be involved in making other women aware of how they too can help to prevent Breast Cancer for themselves. Some causes, are out-with our control, but there are things we can control like small changes to our lifestyle and this is why THIS campaign is going to be so important.”