‘I didn’t expect breast cancer’

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  • Ann Gould, 44, mother of two girls aged 4 and 13, from Essex was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. She’s pictured here with her running partner Lee Warwick

    ‘I’ve always believed that checking your breasts is a good thing to do; my mum taught me to do it, so I’ve never been embarrassed about it. In 2005 I was in the bath checking my breasts and I found a lump. Even though there isn’t history of breast cancer in my family, I knew I had to get this checked out.

    I went to the doctor straightaway and she dismissed it, but a week later the lump had grown. I went back and she still thought it was nothing to worry about but I was very firm with her and insisted that I should see a specialist.

    A month later I had an appointment at my local hospital to see a consultant. The lump had continued to grow. I had an FNA (fine needle aspiration), which is where a very fine needle is inserted into the lump to take a sample, and I had a mammogram.

    After a short wait I was called back to see the consultant. She told me there and then, in a very matter of fact way, that the mammogram confirmed that I had breast cancer. I couldn’t believe it, I felt a mixture of numbness and panic: what about my two beautiful girls, my husband?

    A Macmillan nurse came in and talked to me about treatment and what would happen next. I didn’t care about the procedure I just wanted them to take out this lump that could kill me. I was then told that I’d have to wait around 5-6 weeks before they could admit me. I didn’t want to wait 5 or 6 weeks, I could die in that time, the cancer was spreading all the time.

    I went home and spent the day in bed. I didn’t want to tell the girls – my 2-year-old was too young anyway – but the 10-year-old knew exactly what was going on. In fact she came up to me and said, “Mummy, have you got cancer?” It broke my heart but also made things easier. I also realised that I’m a mum and that gave me strength.

    We tried to find another hospital or private hospital that would take me sooner than 5 or 6 weeks and within 4 days I was in a private hospital and about to have the operation. They didn’t know how bad things would be until they operated but I told them to take off the whole breast, I didn’t care, I just wanted the cancer taken out. In the end they didn’t have to take my breast away, but they took out 7 lymph nodes and the lump in the breast.

    After the op they told me that the cancer had spread despite taking out lymph nodes and the lump in the breast. I needed 7 months of chemotherapy and about 6 weeks of radiotherapy.

    During my treatment I lost my hair and lost a lot of weight – and I worried about my family. Just before chemotherapy I heard a radio advert for a charity walk for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. My daughter said to me, “Mum that’s what you’re going to do.” I just laughed it off and said don’t be silly but she insisted and said that I needed a new focus.

    I was almost through my treatment and she persuaded me that as they had helped me I need to give something back. For her birthday she’d had some money but she gave it to me and said this is the start of your sponsorship money for your Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity walk – so I couldn’t turn her down.

    I did the walk and it was brilliant. I was even asked to go up on stage to show other women that there is hope.

    I have been clear for almost three years now and I try to live each day in a positive way. I couldn’t have done it without the encouragement and support of my wonderful husband, children and friends…and running helped me through it too. In fact I am still running and walking for Breakthrough, I’ve done two marathons and my daughter, friends and family have raised around £22,000 now.

    I’ve learnt a lot about myself and about life. I’m careful with my diet and I try to be a good person and not get stressed about the little things. I’ve realised that life is too short and too precious.

    You can raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer this October by having a pink party. To find out how to get involved visit www.pinkyourparty.org.uk

    Where to next?
    Read more real life stories
    Find out about breast cancer
    Watch Dr Chris Steele’s breast check video