When she was 59, Debbie was diagnosed with primary breast cancer. She decided to join Breast Cancer Voices to be part of the community and play a part in breast cancer research.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I’m an oncology nurse and I was diagnosed with primary breast cancer during the pandemic.
I’m a keen cyclist, and since my diagnosis, I’ve been determined to line up even more challenges and live life to the full.
Can you tell us about your diagnosis?
After my routine mammogram in November 2021, I didn’t think more of it until I got a call in mid-December. The breast unit asked me to come in and it set my alarm bells ringing. I had to go in alone because of COVID-19 and have 4 biopsies. Waiting for the results was awful and just so hard to cope with.
On 31 December, I got my results. I expected a cancer diagnosis, but it was still a shock. Next thing I knew, I was having a bilateral mammoplasty and a sentinel lymph node biopsy.
Going through my treatment in the pandemic was tough. Attending appointments alone is such an emotional roller coaster.
Where are you now?
I took 6 months off work after my surgery, so I could work through my feelings. I needed to be in a good place for my job - which I love. I’m now back at work and I need to take Letrozole for 5 years.
Exercise is important to me, so I asked my surgeon for advice and continued cycling throughout my treatment. I signed up to a cycling holiday that started 10 days after my radiotherapy, and 2 months later, I did a Women V Cancer ride. Slightly later in 2022, my husband and I did the Lands’ End to John O’Groats challenge with support from my coach. This year, we did the Mount Ventoux Cingles challenge, cycling all 3 routes up the mountain in one day. And next year, I’m doing an Ironman event.
I've also got involved with Breast Cancer Now. I'm a Someone Like Me volunteer and I'm part of a network called Breast Cancer Voices.
Why did you decide to join Breast Cancer Voices?
Breast Cancer Now was such a great support to me - I used its helpline, its forum and its Someone Like Me service - so I wanted to give back.
Being a Voice lets you get involved and have an impact, and that's exactly what I wanted to do. I'm just so glad I found this community with amazing people and great opportunities.
What have you got involved in so far?
I religiously read each Voices email to find out the news and opportunities. When I see a research opportunity, I jump at the chance to get involved. I was an oncology research nurse in the past so I know the impact that research can have.
When I had radiotherapy, I only needed it for 5 days rather than 21 because of a research study. Through Voices, I took part in a different study about this, where I answered questions about how I found it. It was easy to do and could have a big impact.