As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Gef is profiling the models for the Fashion for Life fashion show, in aid of Isle of Man Breast Care and Breast Cancer Now Volunteering in the IOM. The show, which takes place on Friday 22nd October, will feature 80s-inspired fashion, modeled by local survivors of breast cancer. You can book tickets at: villagaiety.com/whats-on/fashion-for-life/
What is your name?
Tell us about you and your life pre-diagnosis.
I am a former computer geek with the civil service, but I undertook early retirement to help on the family farm.
When were you diagnosed with breast cancer, and how old were you?
I was diagnosed in 2006, when I was 53.
How were you diagnosed?
I initially noticed a slight discomfort in my left boob when I wore an underwired bra. After a few days, I noticed that it looked slightly red and a bit swollen.
I went to the doctor and he sent me to Noble’s Breast Clinic to get it checked out. By this time, my boob had grown even bigger and my underarm area was swollen. A few weeks later, the results showed a very aggressive, invasive inflammatory breast cancer.
I was booked in for surgery very quickly but being me, a computer geek who researched everything in the web, I argued that chemo should be first then surgery. My surgeon agreed with me and arranged an oncologist appointment for the next day and within a week I was on the chemo regime.
Tell us about your treatment
After being diagnosed, I was very quickly booked in for surgery. However, because of my nature and being a computer geek, I researched everything on the internet, and I argued that I should have chemotherapy first, then surgery. My surgeon agreed with me and arranged an oncologist appointment for the next day, and within a week I was on a chemo regimen.
I won’t lie, I had horrible sickness, total hair loss, and my finger and toe nails fell off but it worked. By the end of the first couple of cycles, the swelling and pain had gone. The surgery took place to remove the left boob, and all underarm lymph nodes. This occurred just before Christmas, and while it may have been the best Christmas present ever, it didn’t feel like it at the time.
The New Year brought a month at Clatterbridge for radiotherapy, which was easy compared to chemo. This was then followed by another cycle of chemo, when all my hair fell out again. Once the chemo had finished, I elected to have the other boob removed to even things up. By the end of summer I started on a year long cycle of Herceptin which was a new drug luckily allowed, and funded, by our Government. I also had sepsis somewhere during all the treatment.
Best advice I was given
The best advice I was given was to always look at the positives. So, instead of thinking that breast cancer was going to kill me, I had a boob job and new hair style courtesy of the NHS.
Advice I’d give
Talk honestly about how you feel- with family or others who know what you’re going through.
What I wish I’d known
I wish I’d have known how difficult telling friends and family is. However, I’m still here, annoying them 15 years later.
Tell us about your life now and the impacts it has had on you
At the end of the two years of treatment, I was a different me. 2009 saw me model with Isle of Man Breast Care for the first time,and I’m modelling again this year. At 68, I am a different me, braver, stronger and fully alive. I am thankful for all the support from my friends at Isle of Man Breast Care.
My day job is still manual labour caring for sheep on our family farm and I’m fully up to the job.
Thank you everyone who made this possible, now I try to help others through Isle of Man Breast Care who are my best friends and like an extended family for me. I’m so glad they found me or I found them, not sure which, it was all a bit of a blur.
How were you supported by Breast Cancer Now Volunteering in the IOM, Isle of Man Breast Care and other Manx BC Charities?
I am thankful for the work of the Isle of Man Breast Care, who are like an extended family to me. I try and help others through the charity .I’m so glad they found me or I found them, not sure which, it was all a bit of a blur.
Thank you to Sue Quilleash for sharing her story.
As part of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we are selling Mystic Chest t-shirts and jumpers at: https://www.gefthemongoose.net/shop/collections/mystic-chest
Learn more about the collection and the story behind it here