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Celebrating 10 years cancer free!

Written by Charlotte Williams


10 years ago I was (well I thought I was) the healthiest I'd ever been.  I had just returned to work after 10 months of maternity leave where I had been out walking every day, getting lots of sunshine and exercise, my skin looked great, my long hair looked great - I'd just had my highlights done and looked so sunny!

That all changed at the start of 2010, when just before my sons first birthday I felt a hard pea sized lump under my left armpit.  I didn't think too much of it at first, but after 3 weeks it's hadn't gone, so I thought I'd best get it checked out.

I went to the doctors on Friday and by the time I came home from work on the Tuesday there was a letter on my doorstep telling me to go to the Park Centre for Breast Care in Brighton the following morning.

It wasn't much notice, but luckily my brother-in-law Gary was home, so I asked him to look after my son whilst I went for the appointment.

I wasn't particularly worried about it so sent my husband off to work like any other day. When I got to the Park Centre I was given a mammogram and then asked to wait in the waiting room.  I thought I would get a cursory thanks, we'll be in touch, but instead someone came out asking me to go back in for an ultrasound.  It was at this point that I started to worry.  There was a fair bit of waiting around and following the ultrasound I rang Gary (who I told I'd just be an hour at the doctors) in tears, feeling really quite frightened.  I then had to have a biopsy.  At this point I was really concerned.

Two weeks passed and I went back in with my husband for the results.  We were kept waiting a while and then a truly lovely man called Mr Zammit called me for my appointment.

He walked me to a room with a sign on the door saying 'quiet room'.  We knew instantly the conversation that was about to follow.

The most devastating part of the grade 3 breast cancer diagnosis was being told it was unlikely we'd have a second child.  We'd always planned to have 2 kids, so much for plans, eh?!

Following the diagnosis, I had a lumpectomy in March 2010, then 8 treatments of chemotherapy (and yes, I was totally bald!) and radiotherapy. 

One thing I did do was continue to work through the treatment.  I did a 4 day week Monday to Thursday and the company I worked for were amazing, allowing me to take every other Monday off to recover from the chemo I had been treated with the previous Friday.  This helped keep me sane and keep my mind off things & was absolutely the right thing to do for my mental health.

I should say my family and friends were beyond completely amazing at this time.  Buz, my husband, came to every chemo session and thankfully both my parents and my mother-in-law were on hand with the childcare.  My mum also came to any appointments Buz couldn't make & it was amazing to have that support.

The treatment finally finished on 10th September 2010 - my husbands birthday and the day before our late Summer holiday.  I remember having quite a tearful moment in the pub that night, finally knowing all the treatment was over.

I often get asked as a veteran survivor(!) how people should respond and treat someone who has this disease.  The truth is just be normal.  Don't avoid the subject.  Keep your sense of humour!  I remember vividly the day Buz came home saying he had seen a present that he nearly bought me that day.  When I asked what it was he said 'a hair catcher for the bath'.  B*stard!!!  It was hilarious though!

I'm a firm believer that you have to try to the see the positive in a bad situation, otherwise it will eat you up.  The best thing to come out of our situation was that Buz set up @team.boob to start raising money for breast cancer care.  What started as a few charity bike rides is now an annual Boob-fest camping weekend in Sussex, involving all our amazing friends, who were so supportive during that time.  Now everyone (especially the kids) live for Camp Boob and so we are finally able to pay it forward having raised well over £20k for charity.

And the other amazing thing to happen?  Well, after a couple of years of medication my oncologist allowed me to come off for a short break to try for a second child.....and a miracle was born!  That miracle is now my 5 year old daughter.

I am the luckiest person alive.

Charlie x