Breast Cancer Awareness by Mrs. Cheema

Posted on: 28/09/2018

They say everyone knows someone who has had Cancer. When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2013, at the age of 36...I didn’t.

I was chair of the Parents’ Association at the time and very much involved in the school community. We had just had the St. Helen’s College Family Bollywood evening. It was a fantastic night, all singing and dancing with great food. We even had Mr. Crehan changing the Bhangra lightbulbs on the dance floor! We came home elated with the success of the evening. That very night as I flopped into bed, exhausted with the excitement and preparation that comes with any school event, I felt a hard lump in my right breast.

As the news broke and the days unfolded, my world turned upside down. As a family, we were being taken down a road that was very unfamiliar to us. Eight months of treatment followed, to include 6 sessions of chemotherapy, 15 sessions of radiotherapy and surgery and a whole summer snatched away from us. Our children Suraj and Amar, just 8 and 5 at the time, had to watch and wait as mummy got sick and then a little better and then sick again as the chemotherapy did its job every three weeks to shrink my tumour and catch any stray cancer cells that may have travelled around my body.

People often ask how we coped? Well, I believe it has a lot to do with a positive mental attitude. Accepting a situation that is out of your control is the first step. No amount of worrying will change any situation. Each day when I wake up, I have a choice, to live that day as best I can or to lie in bed and feel sorry for myself. Some days, the latter choice was my only option when my body needed its rest. I am very aware every single day how precious our lives are and how they can be snatched away in a split second, so I choose to enjoy each and every day and make it special.

How do the children cope? I think children are very resilient, a breath of fresh air actually. The innocence of a child can get you through any situation. Children look at the here and now. They don’t hold on to the fear, don’t worry about the future and can move on quite quickly with a play date or a family movie night on the sofa with a big bowl of popcorn! Keeping things as normal as possible, even through the toughest of days, is how we got through it.

So here we are, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and this year is a particularly exciting one for our family. Gurveer and I are working with one of the largest Breast Cancer charities, Breast Cancer Now, in collaboration with Marks and Spencer to raise vital funds for research into Breast Cancer so that by 2050, anyone diagnosed will survive. To take one of the most challenging parts of our lives and turn it into something positive to raise awareness and help towards a common goal is a fantastic opportunity for us.

M&S have pledged to raise 13 million pounds over this 5 year campaign and together we can reach this goal even faster. I am asking everyone to visit your local M&S store during the month of October. 20% of any purchases made from the Breast Cancer collection will be donated to Breast Cancer Now to fund this vital research. I believe that if we can break the backbone of Breast Cancer, we will be one step closer to finding better treatment for all other cancers.

Breast Cancer affects 1 in 8 women, and early detection is the key. I never thought this would happen to me but it did. Then my mum and my sister were also diagnosed with Breast Cancer. We are all ok now, because we were so aware and detected these changes early. Look, touch, feel, know your breasts and be aware of any changes, no matter how slight. This should be done every 3-4 weeks. If any change at all is seen, visit your GP and demand a mammogram is done. I cannot shout this message any louder and I will continue to do so. Speak to the women in your family and spread awareness amongst your friends, and speak to your elders as cancer does not exclude anyone. This is not something any woman can ignore. Be breast aware, it could save someone’s life.

Mrs. Cheema