Sandeep is the headteacher of a multicultural school in North London and she is a mum of 2. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 at the age of 36. Her strong sense of self, dreams and ambitions powered her through her diagnosis and treatment.

I grew up in a Punjabi Indian community 

I grew up in Birmingham surrounded by a Punjabi Indian community, with traditions and culture that can set an additional challenge for girls and women.  

I’m the oldest child out of 7 (6 girls and my brother) of immigrant parents from India. I always knew I wanted something else and luckily for me, I had the (reluctant) support of my parents. 

I flew the nest and moved to London in 1994 to start university. This was the beginning of my life. Here I was free to be as I wanted, to follow my dreams in love and life. I met and married the love of my life, and we’re blessed with 2 beautiful daughters. 

I would do anything for anyone  

I’m driven and passionate about my job. I love being a teacher and I’m happiest with a class of children explaining long division until they have that lightbulb moment. I’m proud that I have the ability to make a change in the lives of the families I’m connected to.  

I love my family and friends (who are my family). I can’t imagine a life without the wonderful people that I’m privileged to call friends.  

Sandeep wear it pink

As I grow older (but not necessarily wiser) I’m in awe of my mum 

My mum came to the UK as a young girl aged 19 and she had an arranged marriage. She then had 7 children, which I cannot imagine, having had 2 myself. She brought us up to have respect for who we are, and to always be proud of our achievements.  

Although my sisters and I did things differently, often alien to my mum’s life and upbringing, she kept firm in her beliefs but she respected ours. She loves us fiercely. 

My mum herself was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 44, and I saw her resilience shine through. She was not to be beaten as she had too much to do and children to raise, all of which she’s done. She celebrated her 70th birthday with her children and grandchildren around her.  

I was only 36 when I got diagnosed 

When I was diagnosed, I was totally fine in health. I just had a little ‘frozen pea’ under the surface of my right breast.  

I remember being out with my best friend in Brighton and I said to her, I wonder what this is? She encouraged me to get it checked out and I couldn’t believe it when they told me. The anger I felt was immense. I had 2 young children (aged 4 and 6) and I was teaching year 6 with children who had end of year exams. I was happy and well. 

I thought – why me? We had already experienced this as a family with my mum, so it felt utterly unfair to have to go through it again. I went from feeling absolutely well to being the most ill I’ve ever been, with pain that was indescribable.  

I had no choice but to get on with life. I couldn’t stop and wallow. I was needed. 

My girls needed me. My husband needed me. My mum and my family needed me. My friends needed me, and I needed them. So, my army of support kicked into action. 

I could name everyone in my life at this point whose kindness got me through this time. From my mother-in-law, to my school colleagues and my army of friends, and even strangers. 

One of my closest friends, Pippa, was there for me every step of the way  

She’s the person who came to various hospital appointments, and she made notes for me to read later. She challenged (maybe even annoyed) doctors and surgeons with her relentless questions. She cooked and fed my family and I. And she was then diagnosed with breast cancer a few years after me.  

I was so proud to take part in the wear it pink campaign and it was even more special being able to do it with Pippa. Surely, we’re a sign that you can experience cancer and live your life. 

Sandeep and Pippa

My one piece of advice is to think you will be well again

Look forward to things. Love your friends. Do something for others. Don’t let cancer get in the way of you being you and living your life to the fullest.

Wear it pink with Sandeep 

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