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After learning to love her new look, and embrace life, Sheila signed up to some of our volunteering opportunities, including Breast Cancer Voices. She wanted to teach people that ‘life can be good again after a diagnosis.’
When I was diagnosed in 2015, I didn't believe it at first, I thought that they’d made a mistake.
I was told I’d need a mastectomy and 15 rounds of Herceptin, and that I’d lose my hair when I had chemo. I had loved my blonde, shoulder length hair.
I was horrified, not at the treatment, as I’d been in and out of hospital since I was 11, but at the diagnosis, and the thought of losing a breast and my hair. It was only 6 months since I’d moved in with Ross, my partner, and I was scared of losing myself and my image. I’d been comfortable with the way I looked - I quite liked me. And I was worried what Ross would make of all this, we’d only been together for 1 1/2 years.
I knew my hair would be grey when it grew back, and that it would take time to get back to the length it was. I took solace in the fact I could hide a false breast from everyone, but the hair was different. The wig I got was quite good, but it was too big as I have a small head.
I decided one morning I had to accept whatever was changing in me, so I ditched the wig and started to accept what was to be the "new me."
The support I received was fabulous - Ross was always with me, as were my friends and family. I also reached out to Breast Cancer Now (called Breast Cancer Care at the time), to ask things I didn’t understand or didn't want to ask the hospital. The nurse helpline was great. Frankly I needed all the support I could get. Although, I always made light of the way I was feeling.
I then decided to volunteer with Breast Cancer Now, to give back some of the care that I experienced.
I’ve been volunteering with Breast Cancer Now for few years now, and I still do.
I help with the Moving Forward course about coping with life after breast cancer. It gives me an opportunity to show people that there’s life after cancer, and you can accept and embrace the "new you" with time.
I now have grey hair. Who would have thought I’d be happy? I’ve been a model in the 2018 Glasgow Fashion Show, I was part of a Breast Cancer Now’s film, and I’ve been on the front cover of the Breast Cancer Care Magazine, which went in all the pharmacies in Scotland.
I also decided to join Breast Cancer Voices, a network giving people affected by breast cancer the chance to shape breast cancer work and support.
I wanted to become a Breast Cancer Voice, to listen to other people’s stories and try to make a difference.
When I was diagnosed, my mum told me not to tell anyone, as it wasn't talked about in her generation. So I want to let women know that we can speak about it, and that life can be good again after a diagnosis – you can still love yourself and feel confident.
I also wanted to take part in any research opportunities that would be beneficial.
I volunteered to be part of a study for Dundee University. It was to look at a new way of doing a mammogram, using a dye, that would be offered to women with denser breasts. We looked at how we could invite ladies for appointments, from the wording of the letters to the test itself. I found it so interesting.
I really do love being part of Breast Cancer Voices. I feel in touch with other people in the network, who just understand. And I love hearing about opportunities to take part in various activities and studies.
As a Voice, I’ve met amazing ladies. They’re all so inspiring, with different stories, some of which have become good friends.
We welcome anyone affected by breast cancer, who wants to work for change, support others, and join a community of like-minded others, to join Breast Cancer Voices.