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Sheona feels she was relatively lucky in her experience with breast cancer, and has decided she wants to give back by taking part in all four Kiltwalks for Breast Cancer Now.
I became aware that something wasn’t right during lockdown in 2020. However, I did what I always do, which is ignore it – and I know that’s a stupid thing to do. When I eventually got myself to the doctor, she sent me for an urgent referral to the breast clinic.
I’d previously had an issue which had turned out to just be a cyst, so I went to see a private consultant to get his opinion before I went any further. He also told me I had reason to be concerned, and actually wrote to the breast clinic to say I needed to be seen quickly.
It was about six weeks after my initial appointment with the GP that I was seen for a mammogram and a biopsy. Unlike a lot of other places, they don’t send you away and have you come back for the results: you get told everything on the same day.
So, I found out then and there that I had breast cancer.
Because of the pandemic, that was the only face-to-face contact I had with my consultant. Everything else was done over the phone.
The pandemic interrupted in other ways, too. Two days before I was supposed to have my surgery, the hospital closed due to COVID, so I got transferred to one in Glasgow. It was a private hospital, so I thought I’d at least get nicer food (I didn’t!).
I had a few consultations with a plastic surgeon about reconstruction, and he mentioned that – though it was unlikely I’d need any further treatment – having an implant might complicate things. I felt confused and scared by what was happening, so I decided I wanted to keep it as simple as possible and opted to go without a reconstruction.
Within a week of the surgery, I was fine, and I’ve tried to keep things 'normal’ ever since.
I don’t like the word ‘survivor’ and I don’t like the word ‘victim’, either. I just say I’ve been treated for breast cancer, and that I was very fortunate to have only needed surgery.
Cancer is a horrible word, and it’s a scary experience. And I do sometimes think about it coming back in my other breast, and just have to hope it doesn’t become secondary. But, in comparison to a lot of other people’s experiences, I know I have been exceptionally lucky.
It’s partly because I feel lucky that I decided I wanted to fundraise for Breast Cancer Now. I’ve raised money for other charities in the past, but breast cancer is now obviously something close to home.
I also chose Breast Cancer Now because their online resources really helped when I was trying to make a decision about reconstruction. I was able to read other people’s stories and use the Forum to see how other people felt about their mastectomy options, but also spoke to a few people directly via Someone Like Me.
That was so helpful, especially as I only had a short window of time to make my mind up and move forward with surgery.
Funnily enough, I am also a part of the Generations Study, and didn’t realise it was run by Breast Cancer Now. I’d fallen out of touch with it because I moved house, but someone managed to track me down, so I’ve been able to update my answers as part of the research.
I’m doing my fundraising by completing all four of the Kiltwalks. Previously, I’ve only done the Glasgow one, but this time I really wanted to push myself – especially as I sometimes feel cheeky asking for donations every year! If people are going to put their hands in their pockets for me, I want it to be a challenge.
It’s always such a good atmosphere on the day. There are people walking the route in the T-shirts of their chosen charities, and their kilts of course. You get lots of people beeping and waving as they drive past, because normally you’d only wear a kilt for something special like a wedding.
I actually got a bit emotional at the last walk, as I think it was clear that I was doing the walk because of a personal connection to breast cancer, and there were so many people cheering me on. The Hunter Foundation' tops up everyone’s fundraising by 50%, and the founder - Sir Tom Hunter - talks about ‘Kiltwalk kindness’. Based on my experiences, I can say it’s definitely present on the day.
The whole event has such a community feel to it. There’s the bagpipes at the beginning, the ‘kilties’ who cheer you on and give you sweeties along the way, and the Kiltwalk village at the end where you can get some food and drink and enjoy some entertainment. Even if you go on your own, you get this lovely, supportive feeling from taking part.
Of course, it’s a long walk, and you feel tired at the end – but it feels so good afterwards when you’ve got that medal around your neck!
Every year, there are four Kiltwalks that take part across Scotland. If you'd like to join in and raise money for Breast Cancer Now at the remaining two, we'd love to see you there!