Contact our breast care nurses 0808 800 6000
Personal Stories

Breast cancer at 79 was a terrible shock

Dorothy Clark, from Surrey, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 79. At 85, she took to the catwalk as a fashion show model.

The year 2010 was a significant one for me. I was turning 80 in October. I was planning to live life to the full, but things don’t always go according to plan.

In February, my husband and I were flying to Mauritius to board a cruise ship. I had a mammogram before going. I requested one as women over 70 are not routinely invited for breast screening.

Imagine my shock when I returned home after the holiday to find three letters asking me to return immediately to the clinic for further tests.

It was bad news. A biopsy confirmed I had breast cancer. I thought that I was going to die – I was in the most dreadful state.

A terrible shock

The day of my mastectomy finally arrived. After careful thought, I decided not to have breast reconstruction. I was anxious to get on with my chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I have since got used to wearing a prosthesis.

I was determined to get better quickly after the surgery. I was Chair of Governors of a primary school and there was a big project I needed to support. I had arranged for the local MP to visit the school a few days after I left hospital. I met him with my surgical drains still in place!

My next challenge was chemotherapy. I was very anxious about having it. But the Breast Cancer Care website was brilliant at explaining everything. It helped reassure me and made things seem much less complicated than I had imagined.

The chemotherapy was still dreadful. My digestive system was upset, everything tasted horrible and I felt ill all the time. And losing my hair was a terrible shock. I started off with one wig but actually had five by the end.

The next treatment was radiotherapy – every weekday for six weeks. It was quite a commitment for my husband, then aged 87, who drove me 30 miles every day. But he was wonderfully supportive.

A fabulous experience

It’s now six years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

In 2015 I was a model at the Breast Cancer Care fashion show. Doing The Show was fabulous. From start to finish I felt like a superstar. It was an amazing atmosphere, and I was so privileged to meet so many inspirational ladies.

I also appeared on QVC, the TV shopping channel, to promote a necklace I designed for Breast Cancer Care.

Then in November I was awarded the MBE for services to education and the community in Surrey. It was the icing on the cake.

Breast Cancer Care has been a terrific support, and so has my family. We celebrated every stage of treatment.

I want any older women diagnosed with breast cancer to know that they don’t have to give up. At 85 I have boundless energy and I’m travelling the world again with my husband.

Share this page