I am a 73-year-old primary teacher and after finding a lump in my breast and a visit to my GP, I was referred to the Royal Berkshire Hospital where a mammogram failed to show anything, but an ultrasound and a biopsy showed cancer in the breast and the lymph nodes.
It came as a shock as there is no history of cancer in the family, I never smoked, drank very little alcohol and always ate a healthy vegetarian diet. Keeping active was always a priority; running half marathons, walking 60km over two days in London to raise money for breast cancer and taking part in The MoonWalk in London, 2012. I was still power walking and attending Pilates and Zumba classes and feeling really well.
I underwent a lumpectomy and removal of lymph nodes followed by six sessions of chemotherapy, then radiotherapy and have been prescribed Anastrozole (Arimidex) which works by lowering levels of oestrogen in the body. I remained optimistic, helped by wonderful support from my three daughters, grandchildren, teaching colleagues and friends, and the wonderful chemo nurses and breast care nurses. I was determined to keep up walking, gradually increasing distance and pace. I was also on the Add-Aspirin trial which sought to understand whether taking aspirin daily for 5 years after treatment could stop or delay the cancer returning.
I signed up for the Breast Walk Ever 2016 and resumed training, but out of the blue I started experiencing seizures which were diagnosed as left hemispherical focal seizures associated with superficial siderosis of uncertain aetiology, so I had to withdraw, and my daughter and friend took the places.
I was told to come off the Add-Aspirin trial and go on a seizure medication (Levetiracetam) after a few days in hospital. About one year after my last seizure I was allowed to drive again.
After gradually building up my exercise regime again with power walking, Pilates, four dance exercise classes and a healthy diet, I completed the Breast Walk Ever 2017 along with one of my daughters and granddaughter.
I still do supply teaching, voluntary work with groups in a local school, a wildlife group, Henley Garden Buddies and the Green gym. I feel really well and am hoping to stay that way.
Although I did the breast care exercises religiously three times a day, I have developed Lymphoedema, but I’ve been shown how to manage it with simple lymphatic massage.
I feel sure that regular walking has contributed to my recovery and done lots for my well-being. It helps keep my joints and muscles moving and I can enjoy watching nature change through the seasons. I always meet someone to pass the time of day and see lots of friendly dogs. It lifts my spirits even on a rainy day.
I feel that surviving this far feeling so well is such a blessing and I plan to keep walking so that I can continue to raise money for Against Breast Cancer. I long for the day when we conquer this problem and a vaccination can be found to protect women like my daughters and granddaughters.
I do have doubts sometimes and worry it will return, but now more than ever I live in the moment, enjoying each day. My seven grandchildren are such an inspiration and help me to keep things in perspective.