PUBLISHED ON: 13 May 2019

Laura Ashurst was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer 11 years ago. She tells us why she joined our Secondary Breast Cancer Campaign Group, and how together, we’re changing the future for women with incurable breast cancer. 

Women with secondary breast cancer attending our campaign workshop

I’m one of 29 women making a difference 

Friday 3 May 2019 was a hugely significant day for me.  It was significant because this date marked the first meeting of the newly-formed Secondary Breast Cancer Campaign Group made up of myself and 28 other women. All of us have had to deal with the devastating news that breast cancer has spread to other parts of our bodies and as such, live with the incurable form of the disease.  

Two weeks earlier, we’d each received an email from Paul Head, Senior Campaigns Officer for Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now, telling us that our applications to be a members of this campaign group had been successful. His email warmly welcomed us and told us how much he was looking forward to working together on this new campaign. That communication has marked the start of something very exciting indeed.  

I have felt the impact of my diagnosis immensely 

I know what it’s like to be told that breast cancer is going to be the cause of your death. I know the fear and anxiety that secondary breast cancer has brought to my life. I have felt the impact of my diagnosis immensely, both on a physical and psychological level. I also know, that by playing a part in helping to create change for people whose lives have been affected by this disease, that my having to deal with the experience of living a life with it will not have been in vain. That’s how strongly I felt about wanting to be a part of this group. 

The merger of Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now combines research and support for everybody affected by breast cancer but this particular campaign group shines a much-needed spotlight on secondary breast cancer and the challenges that people living with this form of the disease face daily.  

I shed tears of remembrance as well as hope 

On a personal level, after reading Paul’s email I shed some tears. They were tears that flowed for a number of reasons.  

They were tears of remembrance and sadness as thoughts of dear friends who have died as a result of this disease filled my mind. But they were also tears of hope for a brighter future. A future where women like me, who are told they have secondary breast cancer, can face each day, knowing they are fully supported by a specialist secondary breast cancer nurse, that they have access to the best available drugs to enable them to live for as long as possible and that the impact of their diagnosis upon their life is acknowledged and understood, so that they receive the very best levels of support and treatment, irrespective of where they live or their age.  

Hope comes in many forms. When I saw the email inviting people like me to apply to become a member of the group, I also saw an opportunity to take part in helping to bring about change for the better. An opportunity to build hope for women living with secondary breast cancer, coming from the perspective of fully understanding the issues that people face who live with this disease.  

Courage, hope and determination have united us 

I knew that I would find being a part of this group a very emotional experience. I tried to prepare myself mentally for the day: being in a roomful of women from different parts of the UK who have all had a secondary breast cancer diagnosis was always going to be an emotional experience.  

This was a very big step for me and I felt the emotion within my very core. As I looked around the room, I took a deep breath and absorbed the scene in front of me: women of mixed ages, ethnicities, backgrounds and experiences but with one common strand that united us all: secondary, incurable, metastatic, advanced breast cancer. Courage, hope and a determined will and desire to help others in our situation also unites us. 

How we’re driving change 

The focus of the group is to work together, as a team, to identify the key issues that are facing women who are diagnosed with the disease. Initially, this will form the basis of what the charity hopes will be the most comprehensive survey of people with secondary breast cancer. The responses will be used to drive forward change, open up discussion and lead to effective decision making that will directly impact positively on people living with the disease.  

Across the day, we discussed issues ranging from how secondary breast cancer was and should be perceived, through to availability of treatment and specialist support.  

It was an honour and a privilege to listen to everybody’s stories and personal experiences, each of which will help to shape and inform the progress of the group.   

The day left me tired but happy, filled with a sense of achievement and enthusiasm along with a renewed feeling of hope and anticipation of change for the better. 

The next steps for us, as a group is to meet in early July to further shape the development of the campaign. I’m looking forward to meeting everybody again in the summer, getting to know each other better while working together to achieve progress and to champion this very important campaign group. 

Get the latest updates from Laura and our Secondary Breast Cancer Campaign group by joining our Campaigns Network. 

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