Three years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I found a lump and went through a couple of weeks of “it’s probably nothing, but let’s just check” before the tests came back. I’d always been a bit active, doing a bit of horse-riding, occasional hill walking and being a constant gym member (although not necessarily always going!). I had my son and meant to get fitter but it’s difficult with a baby to look after and work and everything else that gets in the way. At the time of diagnoses my son was two years old and I was 36 so there was plenty of time to get around to it... at some point.
Last year I was diagnosed with grade 2 lobular breast cancer and was listening to radio 4 a few weeks before my operation. Liz O’Riordan was saying how she continued to exercise through treatment and I decided to try that approach as well. I was already quite fit as I am an active member of a cycling club and had only recently cycled Mont Ventoux in the French Alps just before my operation.
OK so I started radiotherapy on 22ndNovember—the first of 20 sessions. Its ok – had an MRI and CT scan the week before to set me up. I have to give myself a mini enema 45 minutes before my session and then 30 minutes before drink two large glasses of water. First session they mark 3 little tattoos on my hips/tummy which they will use along with the laser to get me in the exact position every time. Once I am in position the staff disappear and the first thing is the machine performs a CT scan—this is used to make sure everything is in the right place and it takes them about 5 minutes to do their checking. Then the radiotherapy head pivots around my lower tummy which takes about 40 seconds and is completely painless. Then I’m off home.
When I got my diagnosis of breast cancer, a month after my 50thbirthday, I was the fittest I’d ever been in my life. I was training for the Women’s Head of the River Race which takes place on the Boat Race course, and my first reaction when I got my diagnosis was irritation that I wouldn’t be able to compete!
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, there were two things I was told would definitely happen to me. The first was that I would get constipation. The second was that my hair would never be the same again. Well, I never did get constipation and my hair - apart from the fact it is now in a style I would have the never had the confidence to pick - is still thick and straight. What no one told me as I was ferried between consultation rooms was that I would end up owning lycra; that I would turn to exercise and that exercise would change my life.
In October 2018 I completed my 50thfull Ironman triathlon at the tender age of 65 at the World Championships in Kona Hawaii—my third time there. It was very special as my oldest son Alan had also qualified and we raced if not together at least unusually in the same world championship race! Alan qualified in Thailand late in 2017 and I qualified at Ironman UK this year—not one of my greatest races but I qualified---unfortunately I already had an idea of what lay ahead !!