After her sister Sarah was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in April 2022, Theresa was inspired to hold an Afternoon Tea, raising money to support vital breast cancer research.

Sarah was only 50 when she told me she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer

When people talk about their soulmates, most of them mean their partners. My soulmate was my sister Sarah.

My heart lurched when Sarah told me she was alone when she’d been given her diagnosis. I put my arm around her. “They can cure breast cancer, you’ll be fine,” I said. I hadn’t realised then just how gruelling the treatment would be.

Sarah coped by retreating into herself, going to appointments alone. I wanted to be there for my big sister, but it felt like she was shutting me out.

In October 2019, Sarah was told she was cancer-free.

After Sarah was diagnosed, I started to check myself more regularly

Just 2 weeks after Sarah had been told she was cancer-free, I noticed a lump on my left breast.

About 5 years before this, I’d found a lump in my other breast, and it turned out to be a cyst. I initially thought this one was too – until I was one of the last 2 women waiting to be seen at the breast cancer clinic.

When the consultant told me I had breast cancer, Sarah burst into tears

She took the news worse than I did, maybe because she knew what I was about to go through.

I had a single mastectomy and reconstruction in November 2019, before going on to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy. During one of my CT scans, doctors spotted 2 small spots on my breastbone. Unable to confirm if they were cancerous, the consultant decided to treat them as if they were.

In December 2021, Sarah started to feel sick and her appetite vanished

After being sent for tests, Sarah was told that she had tumours on her spine, ovaries, abdominal wall and lower intestine. More tests in April 2022 revealed the tumours were secondary breast cancer. It was incurable.

“If I can have another 2 or 3 years, I’ll be happy,” she told me. All I could think was that 2 or 3 years was never enough – she was only 54.

By June, she was in a hospice to try and build herself back up, but she was just too poorly. She was in so much pain, it was devastating to watch her suffer. So in August 2022, when she passed away holding my hand, it was something of a relief for her sake. But our family was broken.

I knew Afternoon Tea was something I had to get involved in

A Victoria sponge cake decorated on top with strawberries and white icing, and layered in the middle with jam and cream.

Not long after Sarah was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer, I was on the Breast Cancer Now website and saw the Afternoon Tea event. I’m an avid baker, so I knew I had to take part.

After Sarah passed away, I decided to go ahead with the Afternoon Tea and hold it in her memory. The baking was therapeutic, as was having everyone over to my house to laugh and remember Sarah. I love feeding people with cake, so being able to raise money at the same time was just amazing. It’s also really important to me to raise awareness of primary and secondary breast cancer.

You can order free publications from Breast Cancer Now’s website. They cover a wide range of topics, such as breast awareness.

I thought I’d maybe make £100 but instead I raised £1,500. I was absolutely delighted and a bit overwhelmed to find out I was one of the top fundraisers for Afternoon Tea in 2022 for Northern Ireland.

 

Sisters Sharon, Theresa, Sarah, Paula and Debbie smile for an indoor group photo. They are all wearing elegant dresses. Theresa was wearing a black and white dress, and Sarah was wearing a pink dress.
Sisters from L to R: Sharon, Theresa, Sarah, Paula and Debbie

Very few charities mention secondary breast cancer, but Breast Cancer Now did

Breast Cancer Now’s online resources were so helpful to me and my family when we needed to learn more about the disease.

For me, it’s really important to raise vital funds towards Breast Cancer Now’s world-class research and life-changing support, so that there will be a time when no one will die from breast cancer. Recently I got confirmation that I have bone metastasis, so I’m now being treated for secondary breast cancer too.

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