Carol, now 58, said: “I think it is really important if you find something that’s not normal for you to trust your instincts and put yourself first. A lot of women don’t put themselves first at many times of the year, particularly at Christmas. But it’s really important to get yourself to the doctors and get checked out. If breast cancer is found early and treated early, then there’s no reason why you can’t live a full and happy life for many years to come.”
Carol, a Project Manager with Tameside Council, was just 30 years old when she discovered a lump in her breast in December 1993.
But her cancer diagnosis hasn’t stopped her from having children, breastfeeding and doing the things she loves – like horse riding.
She said: “I remember noticing a lump while watching television and trying to feel discretely as my in-laws were over for Christmas! But I knew straight away I needed to get it checked out. I went to see my doctor on Christmas Eve.”
Carol was referred to Tameside Hospital for an appointment after Christmas where investigations including a mammogram and a biopsy later showed she had breast cancer. Recently married and looking forward to start a family, cancer had been the last thing on her mind.
She said: “When they told me I needed chemotherapy my first thoughts were would this mean I couldn’t have children? The doctors back then didn’t seem to think about the impact that might have. I think it’s better now.”
Carol had a lumpectomy, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy at The Christie and was given the all-clear. Fortunately, her periods returned and in March 1996 she went on to have her first child Oliver.
Carol continued to have routine check-ups and in August 1997, the checks discovered she had some abnormal cells and needed another operation. She had also just discovered she was pregnant. This time she had a mastectomy to remove the pre-cancerous cells and went on to have Ellissa in May 1998.
She said: “I managed to breast feed both my children from my other breast which was really important to me. When both my children had started school and I was 38, I had a preventative mastectomy and reconstructive surgery which made me feel more confident.