Breast cancer survivor Jo is one of the faces of Sport England's This Girl Can campaign. Find out what inspired her to get involved.
Monday 27 July 2015      Guest blog
Left school. Didn’t leave games.

Jo Baldwin, 43, is a Development Director and mum from Burnley who enjoys playing rounders. Jo is one of the new faces of Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, currently appearing on posters around the country to inspire women to get active. Jo is also a breast cancer survivor and long-standing supporter of Breast Cancer Now.

Jo was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2011, aged 39. She had always been breast aware, as she lost her aunt to breast cancer when she was just 31. Finding out she also had breast cancer was devastating. After undergoing biopsies, followed by a single mastectomy, Jo then found out the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, which meant she had to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Family history testing

Because of her aunt’s experience, Jo underwent family history testing – this revealed that she had a rare gene mutation (Chek2). Jo then went on to have a preventative mastectomy in March 2014, and immediate reconstruction. Her right breast reconstruction (where the tumour was removed), has been created using fat and skin from her stomach, Jo selected this method as she didn’t want the alternative, which was to use muscle from her back, as she was quite sporty. In her left side, she had a skin sparing mastectomy and has an expander and implant.

Jo has always been a fan of sports, and began playing rounders with Burnley Leisure through a campaign called ‘Get in 2’, which aims to get women back into sport. She absolutely loved playing again – the taster sessions started with 18 women and eight weeks later it had grown to 50 attendees. They then decided to set up a league and have 23 teams competing weekly across two leagues. There are now 450+ women playing in the Burnley rounders league.

This Girl Can 

Jo’s involvement and enthusiasm has led her to become the chair of the league and also a team captain. She umpires weekly too. This Girl Can put a note out through Burnley Leisure, inviting the ladies to come to a casting for the new campaign, and Jo went along with some of her team.

During the casting Jo was asked what her favourite body part was, to which she replied her boobs. She then told her story to This Girl Can, explaining how much more confident she is now.

The next day, Jo received the news that she had been chosen to be the face of the next poster campaign for This Girl Can. She took part in a photo shoot a week later along with her team mates and is extremely proud to front such an inspiring campaign.

She says: “It can be tricky trying to fit rounders into my busy work schedule but I make it my priority to go along and play every Wednesday evening. Once I’m there, I get such a buzz being part of a team and being active. I don’t worry about what people might think, whether I’m good at it, or what I look like, because it doesn’t matter what shape or size you are, it’s all about embracing what you have and having fun with it. Rounders is an all-inclusive activity, it’s not ageist, size-ist, ability-biased or exclusive in any way. Literally anyone can get involved and play.”

Physical activity and breast cancer risk

Like Jo, Breast Cancer Now believes physical activity comes in all shapes and sizes and we want to encourage women to get more active. We all know that being active is good for our health, and it can help lower the risk of developing breast cancer too. Just 30 minutes of daily moderate intensity physical activity (or 3.5 hours a week) can reduce your risk of breast cancer by at least 20%. That’s any activity that makes you feel warmer, breathe harder and gets your heart beating faster. You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete and it doesn’t have to cost you a penny. So find your way to move more or get some inspiration from other girls who can.