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 live in Ramsey with my husband Ian and 3 greyhounds. After nearly 30 years in the travel and cruise industry, I worked full time in the Courts of Justice in a job I loved. I had also run my own charity for many years, which fundraises and homes ex-racing greyhounds on the Island.
I have always loved traveling and adventurous holidays in far flung exotic places, and taking part in activities such as whitewater rafting, hill climbing and snorkelling.
When were you diagnosed, and how old were you?
I was diagnosed in the Autumn of 2013 when I was 56. Credit goes to my GP and to the specialists at Noble’s for their speedy intervention for which I am very grateful.
How were you diagnosed?
I found that something wasn’t quite right when I was showering and contacted my GP, who was excellent. Within just a few days I was undergoing diagnostic tests including scans and a biopsy. I was about to leave on holiday, but I was told I should not go until I had received my test results. Not wanting to miss my holiday, it was agreed that I could go, on the condition that I flew home to receive my results a week later. So I had a day trip back to the Island in the middle of my holiday to confirm what I had strongly suspected – an aggressive breast cancer.
Tell us about your treatment
I commenced my excellent treatment with a number of surgical procedures with Ms Millie Bello. This included several hours in theatre on my birthday – what could be a better birthday present than life saving surgery?!
My Christmas present was chemotherapy which started on Christmas Eve. This went on for several months. It was tailored to my needs and with a ‘goody bag’ of supporting medication to take home after each session. It was fine- not fun, but fine.
I became an ‘Ice Queen’ by using the ‘cold cap’ which froze my head for a few hours during each of the 24 chemo sessions. This meant that I did not lose my hair, which was a bonus.
My husband Ian or my father Roy, were my ‘chemo buddies’ coming to all the sessions with me to keep me company. The chemo suite at Noble’s was very comfortable, with personal cubicles: a TV, DVDs, a radio, tea, coffee and sometimes lunch too. There were also views up to the good old Manx hills.
This was followed by several weeks of daily Radiotherapy at Clatterbridge on the Wirral: a marvellous friendly place and very welcoming to Manxies! My husband and dogs came with me and we stayed in a lovely cottage with a garden. After the daily radiotherapy sessions, we passed the lovely summer days exploring the Wirral or relaxing at the cottage.
Yes, there were hiccups, side effects and complications along the way. It wasn’t an easy ride, but I just took them as they came and moved on.
I also started 10 years of medication to help prevent recurrence, plus regular ongoing check ups and monitoring, which is always reassuring.
I feel blessed that advances in medical science enabled the above treatments which saved my life and that I live in a place where it is available to those who need it
Best advice I was given
Go with the flow
Advice I’d give
Go with the flow!
Learn to pace yourself and take each step as it comes.
Be kind to yourself.
Learn to say ‘no’ when you don’t feel up to things.
Look for the good in every day.
Know your own body
Steer clear of negative people with stories to tell – they only sap your energy and drag you down.
My general philosophy is whatever will be, will be- worrying won’t change the outcome. I always look for the positives and enjoy each day as it comes. Every day is a bonus. especially after cancer.
Family, friends and dogs are great too.
What I wish I’d known
I had no idea that the treatment would take a whole year! I thought it would be a few weeks and then bounce back to normal.
At the end of active treatment, you gradually return to what is a new normal- nothing is quite the same again.
You meet a lot of people and make new friends along the way.
Tell us about your life now and the impact it has had on you
I still suffer from the complications and side effects of all the treatments, but they are a part of life and I don’t dwell on them – too boring! This is my new normal. Not necessarily better or worse than before – just different.
I still run my own charity, fundraising and homing ex-racing greyhounds on the Island. I also still love travelling and adventurous holidays in far flung exotic places (when covid permits!)
I work a few hours a week in a beautiful country spa which is wonderfully tranquil and serene, with lovely people- just what I need.
How were you supported by Breast Cancer Now and other Manx BC Charities?
It was helpful to meet and speak to other people who have shared similar experiences
Participating in the Fashion for Life show at the Villa Marina 6 years ago gave me a new challenge and something to focus on and look forward to. I am still doing it and it is a fantastic experience.
Thank you to Sally Mac 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/