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Breast cancer showed me my mum’s strength

When Charles’ mum Eilidh was diagnosed with cancer, he promised to be there for her. He shares how her diagnosis showed him how resilient his mum was.

I thought, ‘why my mum?’  

'Mum has breast cancer' are words that you never want to hear. I was thirteen when I heard them, on a family holiday up north. My dad came upstairs and told my older brother and me to come down.  

My brother struck me with a look of, ‘what have we done this time’, anticipating a talk from our parents on something we had done that wasn’t to their liking. I trundled down the stairs with a worried feeling pulsing through my heart.  

As I entered the kitchen, I saw a look on my mum’s face that I had never seen before. It was a mixture of fear, confusion, sadness and sympathy.  

My dad soon adopted had the same look as mum. Then he spoke, 'there’s not an easy way to tell you this, mum has breast cancer.'

Dad continued speaking but I didn’t hear any more. Tears began to pour as shock engulfed me. But, as sudden as the gun that is fired at the sport days she used to watch me at, a rage burnt through my body. Why her? Why my mum?  

The four of us talked and talked, and motivation rose from the rage. We would do this together, assuring mum we would do everything we could to help her, always be there for her and love her. We weren’t going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, we wanted to enjoy our holiday, as a family. 

I saw mum’s resilience and strength 

It was while I was on my summer holidays that mum went through chemotherapy. It was the first time I’d seen someone change so quickly before my eyes.  

One moment sticks with me. We were sitting on the sofa, enjoying a cuppa and mum, with a bizarre but relaxing sense of humour, pulled out a handful of her hair, and laughed. It was her laughing at cancer, telling it to do its best because she knew she was stronger than anything it would throw at her. This showed me mum’s resilience and mental strength.  

Her hair continued to fall out until she’d had enough of it and shaved her head. I worried about this moment, would she still look like the beautiful woman she has been all her life? The answer is yes. My dad and brother shaved her head while I was out with my friends one day. When I came home and saw her it was strange, it almost felt like nothing had changed. She was still strong, she was still my mum and she was still as beautiful as ever.  

This taught me an extremely valuable lesson. Regardless of how someone may change physically, they are still the same person, they still have all the same features that make you love them.

I grew as a person

There were many experiences that helped me grow as a person during my mum’s cancer treatment. There is one that still makes me cry whenever I think about it.  

During my mum’s chemotherapy, she became ill with neutropenic sepsis (when your body gets an infection it can’t fight off because it doesn’t have enough neutrophils – a type of white blood cell). At the time I knew she was ill but not the severity of it. She was kept in hospital and I’d spend hours with her, just laughing and laughing, but being a busy teenager, I didn’t see her for just shy of a week. I noticed my dad was constantly at hospital, but I didn’t really think too much of it.  

It was maybe a month later, my mum was out of hospital, we were sat chatting and she started to tell me, plainly and simply that she had been close to death. As soon as I heard this I started crying, an empty feeling loomed over me. I just squeezed her, I couldn’t comprehend the thought of losing her.   

My mum had told my dad ’I think this is what dying feels like’, when she was lying in her hospital bed. She could have given up, but she didn’t. My mum was strong, my mum is strong. She loves life too much to let it end. She loves her family, her dogs, her horse, too much to give up.  

Mum’s diagnosis taught me to do the things I love in life 

Mum, the amazing woman who has given me so much in life, had the strength, the love, the belief to be defiant when so many people might not be.  

Her diagnosis has taught me so much at such a young age. It’s given me the motivation to throw myself at anything and to do the things I love in life.  

My mum’s defiance has made me the person I am today, sitting here writing about her story, who loves his mum more than anything in the world. 


On November 4, we're getting together for something special: – an evening dedicated to reconnecting with wonderful supporters, just like you and Eilidh.  

This pandemic has kept us apart for so long, now’s the time to get together from the best seat in the house. Your own front room.  

Join us at REUNIGHT with Breast Cancer Now and you’ll have the chance to win prizes, see special performances and hear uplifting stories. 

Tickets to REUNIGHT

All money raised during REUNIGHT with Breast Cancer Now will go towards supporting our mission, that by 2050, everyone diagnosed with breast cancer lives – and is supported to live well.

Buy your tickets

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