Charlene survived breast cancer and less than a year after finishing her treatment, she completed her challenge to cycle from London to Brighton for Breast Cancer Now. In this blog, Charlene tells us about her journey and emphasises the importance of regular check-ups and early diagnosis.
In early 2014 I had just come home from a tough kickboxing training session and thought, ‘oh that feels sore’. I put it down to holding kick pads too close to my chest and taking a lot of heavy impact, but two weeks later the pain was still there and no black marks or bruises had appeared. I went to have a shower one night after training but I forgot my 'shower puff' so had to use shower gel in my hands, and it was only then I found my lump.
It was by some form of good luck I found my lump. I know that sounds crazy, but at least there was enough time for the opportunity of life-saving treatment!
My formal diagnosis was 16 April 2014. I had surgery 16 May 2014; chemo started 19 June 2014; and I had my last chemo 23 October 2014. I started radiotherapy on 12 November, every day in the morning before work for six weeks, and ended on 23 December 2014.
When I had my first yearly check-up in March 2015 and was told there was no sign of cancer, I was obviously delighted. By some twist of fate, that week I also found out about the Breast Cancer Now cycle happening later in the year. I love cycling, so the Challenge Cancer London to Brighton overnight cycle was an opportunity not to be missed!
I signed up and set to work building my body strength again, following surgery, six cycles of chemo and 30 sessions of radiotherapy. And there it was… I found myself on a flight from Northern Ireland to London with a bike in the hold, embarking on a challenge to pay back something to those who helped save my life, and will hopefully save many more lives to come.
I travelled to London and planned to do the cycle alone, but just as I crossed Friars Bridge, the gentleman beside me at the traffic lights (also part of the cycle) lost his balance and fell. I checked that he was okay, introduced myself and asked if he was cycling alone, which he was. So we agreed to cycle together!
To be honest, it was a blessing meeting up with Stamos. When I struggled he encouraged me, and when we reached rest points we celebrated together. It was very much like my journey through the cancer treatment; when my husband was my rock supporting me, encouraging me and celebrating the good days. Stamos and I have stayed in touch since through social media.
I would strongly recommend anyone wanting to do the overnight cycle to do so with a 'buddy' as it is challenging, and at times unnerving, cycling in the pitch dark through the countryside in a cold night. As with any real challenge, it's advisable to have support.
Upon reaching Brighton in the small hours of the morning, it was very rewarding knowing that I had got there: the end of the journey. My emotions ranged from a sense of joy, relief, pride in myself for getting on with it, but also a sense of reality – I was alive! I had survived breast cancer, and less than a year after finishing my treatment, I completed my challenge to cycle from London to Brighton, and raised around £2,500.
Look after your body, check it regularly
Your body is amazing, you can achieve great things with the right mindset, treatment, and of course support. Just like you look after other things such as your car, motorbike, or van, you need to look after your body. If you rely on a vehicle day to day, you service it and give it regular check-ups to ensure it is in proper working order. Your body is no different – look after it and it will take you far.
Don't leave it to chance. By not checking or ignoring signs of breast cancer you run the risk of leaving it too late for the opportunity of successful treatment.
Trust me – I was lucky to find my lump. It was a stroke of fortune that I forgot my shower puff that day, as I had never checked myself before, and it is likely that I may never have done so. We can beat this cancer, we just need time, research and funding.
Knowledge is power, so let's help raise awareness!
Inspired by Charlene's story and ready for a challenge? Sign up to the Challenge Cancer London to Brighton Cycle