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?

Sandy Denning

Tell us about you and your life pre-diagnosis.

I was living in Manchester with my husband, Trev. I hadn’t long started a new job as a Sales Manager for BASF- my dream job! 

When were you diagnosed with breast cancer, and how old were you?

I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer 25 years ago, at the age of 32.

How were you diagnosed?

With my new job, I was working lots and dashing up and down the UK trying to prove myself. I was exhausted, but thought nothing of it until a huge lump developed in my armpit. I just thought I was run down, but I did go to see my GP without delay. He was concerned with the lump, and I was referred to a consultant. Within 10 days, I had seen a consultant, who found another lump in my breast.

Tell us about your treatment

I had a lumpectomy and lymph node removal. The biopsies confirmed that I had a very aggressive type of breast cancer called ‘triple negative’. This form of breast cancer is not oestrogen dependent, and is very difficult to treat. However, I was definitely at the right place at the right time, as my surgeon and oncologist worked together and came up with a treatment plan that saved my life. Although my prognosis was not very good, I was fit and young enough to endure a gruelling cocktail of chemotherapy drugs every three weeks for six months, followed by radiotherapy. They were a dream team at the Alexandra Hospital in Cheadle and Christines in Didsbury, Manchester. I am so grateful for the level of care I received. It was a very tough time in my life but I came through it and it has made the person that I am today!

The hardest part for me was once my treatment had finished – I felt different, vulnerable and had lost my confidence. Getting involved with Breakthrough Breast Cancer (now Breast Cancer Now) helped me focus to get well and to feel useful again!

Best advice I was given

Take it easy- don’t try to be superwoman!

Advice I’d give

Take it one day at a time and don’t beat yourself up about stuff that doesn’t matter.

Tell us about your life now and the impacts it has had on you

All was going well until one day at a check-up, I was told that I probably wouldn’t be able to have children as the chemotherapy had been quite gruelling and that it would have affected my fertility which was confirmed in time by me exhibiting menopausal symptoms at the age of 37. I was devastated and tried to reverse the process by taking natural oestrogen boosters. Miraculously, I eventually fell pregnant at the age 39 and I am so proud to say that we have just dropped our son, age 18, off at University in Liverpool!

When we eventually moved back to the Isle of Man in 2007, I was lucky to meet the Isle of

Man group and have been on the breast cancer now committee since 2010.

How were you supported by Breast Cancer Now Volunteering in the IOM, Isle of Man Breast Care and other Manx BC Charities?

During my battle with cancer, I was given advice in the UK by Breakthrough Cancer.

My reason for telling my story is to urge both men and women to go and get checked out it if

they have any concerns at all. Don’t put it off, as an early diagnosis can save your life. Back in 1996, I was very young to have developed breast cancer – sadly it is more common these days. I want young people to be breast aware and, if something doesn’t feel right then it is important to persevere with getting to the bottom of any unexplained symptoms.

Thank you to Sandy Denning 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 at: https://gef.im/2021/10/13/check-your-mystic-chest/

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