Making a Breakthrough in Suffolk
Like EADT Suffolk, Suffolk Breakthrough Breast Cancer is celebrating its 10th birthday this year. Ollie Hatcher of Suffolk Breakthrough talks to cancer patient Alison Pearson
Like EADT Suffolk, Suffolk Breakthrough Breast Cancer is celebrating its 10th birthday this year. To mark this milestone and with the support of Waitrose, 10p from the cover price of the June issue was donated to the charity. Ollie Hatcher of Suffolk Breakthrough talks to cancer patient Alison Pearson about her experience
Alison Pearson had always checked herself regularly because of a family history of cancer. But one day, she checked and she found something“I was lying in bed one Sunday morning when I found a small lump and it just didn’t feel right,” she said. “In fact the lump hurt so I went to my GP the next day.” Alison’s doctor was 99 per cent sure that there was nothing to worry about but duly referred her to Ipswich hospital where she was seen two weeks later for a mammogram, ultrasound scan and then biopsies.Alison, 50, from Woodbridge, will never forget the date she was diagnosed with breast cancer – November 14, 2008. How did she feel once she'd been given the news? “It’s difficult; all a bit frightening and quite scary. What do you do? You either hide under the duvet or you get on with it.” Alison doesn’t do duvets.A week before Christmas, Alison went back to hospital for a full mastectomy and reconstruction. “The support I received from my breast cancer nurse was amazing. She gave me all the information I needed and supported me in every way, telling me to call if I ever had any problems.
Alison has so much drive and determination and is now planning new challenges for when she feels ‘match fit’ again.
Alison had another anxious month waiting to find out whether the cancer had gone into the lymph nodes and in mid January she found that it had. She then knew she had to be treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. “I had to take the belt and braces option once I knew it had travelled,” she explains. Now finally healed from the complicated breast surgery Alison is full of praise for the department: “I personally think that we have one of the best oncology units for breast cancer in the country. My breast cancer consultant, Dr Liz Sherwin, was brilliant. She must be one of the busiest women in the hospital yet she came to see me twice in hospital when I was really ill.“My breast cancer nurse Helen Gray and chemo nurse Helen Cook were fabulous! When I went in for my chemo treatment, Helen explained all about the side effects and reassured me the whole way through. She was such a calming influence and I felt ever so safe. My radiotherapy nurse Lisa Mann was also fantastic and always available for support or questions.”Support from family and friends was vital and Alison still feels overwhelmed by all the kindness she received. “I had cards and phone calls but meals kept being delivered to my door and people came round to check that I was okay. And they called my husband to see whether we needed food, general shopping, visits, anything!“You have to remember that it’s the partner and family who have to deal with the shock of it. I rang everyone and said ‘Make sure you look after Brian.’ You see he needed support so that he could support me and keep running his business – it’s the most important thing that friends and family can offer.”Alison has so much drive and determination and is now planning new challenges for when she feels ‘match fit’ again. Walking the Great Wall of China and signing up for a sky-dive is on the wish list but she also wants to help fundraise for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.“Anything that would make someone else’s cancer journey more comfortable has got to be a positive,” she says. “Surgery is part of the answer but the side effects from all the other treatments post-surgery are very debilitating and people don’t realise that the surgery is just the first stage of a long, exhausting road to recovery."Alison now encourages other women to show their breasts some TLC and be breast aware.“The message is really simple: touch your breast and look for any changes, and if you do spot anything different, get it checked out with your GP.”