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Even if one person finds their breast cancer because of me, it will have been worth my time

After seeing her sister and her best friend go through breast cancer years ago, Jackie decided she wanted to help other people learn the risks and catch their symptoms early.

After seeing her sister and her best friend go through breast cancer years ago, Jackie decided she wanted to help other people learn the risks and catch their symptoms early. 

I know I’ve helped at least one person find their cancer 

I’ve actually not had a personal experience of breast cancer, but my sister and best friend both got it around the same time. When that happened, I decided I wanted to do something to raise money and awareness, which is how I was initially introduced to Breast Cancer Now. 

I started volunteering with the charity sometime around 2005, but I didn’t start delivering Public Health Talks until later. I began by volunteering with Headstrong, which was for people who had lost their hair during treatment.  

At the time, not as many people used the internet to find out all the things they needed, so that was a really important service. 

After that, I started volunteering on information stands, and those required me to know a bit more about signs and symptoms of breast cancer and other things like that. I went on the breast health promotion training to deliver breast awareness talks and then I was ready to go. I’ve been delivering talks for about seven or eight years now. 

I really enjoy doing them, and it’s been so rewarding at times. One time, a woman came up to me and said she’d learnt how to check herself from me at a previous event, and had actually found a lump because of it. She’d been through treatment and was so grateful to have caught it when she did. 

I welled up at that. I remember thinking, ‘Even if just one person finds their cancer because of me, it will have been worth my time.’ 

Checking for symptoms is more than just a ‘lump hunt’ 

Since moving on to deliver Breast Cancer Now Public Health Talks, I've been able to talk to much larger groups of people – most often businesses, church groups, regional centres. All sorts of people, really! 

There is a range in the ages of people who come along, but it’s always good to see younger people in the audience. So many people think, ‘I’ll just wait until I have my mammogram,’ but for people who do develop breast cancer before they are old enough to qualify for routine mammograms, it can often be more aggressive. 

I make sure to really show people all the signs and symptoms to look out for. Often, people think it’s just a ‘lump hunt’, but there are other indicators. 

We used to always deliver talks in person (and have now returned to doing so), but had been delivering them online since the start of the pandemic. I’m getting used to it, but it’s not quite the same. I’m someone who likes to engage the audience by asking lots of questions, but you can’t do that as easily online, and it can be hard to gauge people’s reactions when you’re looking at a screen full of tiny boxes! 

Everyone should check themselves, regardless of their ‘risk’ 

I like to think that I am educating people and helping individuals take responsibility for themselves, rather than relying on routine breast screening.  

It’s also a good chance to remind people of how they can reduce their risk of developing cancer. This is a really important part, as we still don’t know for certain what causes it, and there have been developments in how much we do understand in recent years. 

At the same time, it’s also important to note that you could be the healthiest person in the world – someone who doesn’t drink or smoke, or who exercises regularly – and still get breast cancer. Those people need to know how to check themselves, too. 

I also just love meeting people. Usually, everyone I come across is so nice. Plus – and I know this isn’t the point of the talks – it makes me feel good about myself! I feel like I’m doing something important. 

As well as teaching people how to look out for themselves, I also try to let them know that they don’t need to be terrified of breast cancer. The treatments are getting so much better than they used to be, and getting a diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean the end.  

 

If you are part of a company, organisation or group that could benefit from a Public Health Talk, we would love to speak to you. Book your talk today or reach out to us for more information.

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