“I found a lump in my left breast in June 2010, shortly before I was due to run Cancer Research UK’s Race For Life for the third time. I was sure, being only 26, it must be a cyst, but I went to my doctor, who also thought it was nothing, but referred me as an emergency as she thought no-one should have a lump in their breast without knowing what it was.
“Two weeks later I went for an ultrasound, and wondered if something was up when they also checked my armpit and asked if I had had any family history of breast cancer. I didn’t know at the time that it was in my mother’s family, as my grandmother had been diagnosed with breast cancer in her forties and lost her battle with cancer at the age of 63.
“My fiancé David was with me when the doctor took a biopsy after telling us he suspected cancer, then we went away for a few days to try and forget about it all. It was a very traumatic time and even more shocking to be told the following week that I did, in fact, have cancer, and now faced a lumpectomy with a choice between either a full lymph node clearance or a lymph node biopsy.
“The first thing we asked was whether we needed to cancel our wedding, which was imminent, but the doctor said that wasn’t necessary. So as we had been planning it for a year I had the lumpectomy and lymph node biopsy on Monday 12th July 2010, and was married two-and-a-half weeks later. I remember the priest, who was a friend, welling up during the part he spoke about ‘your children’s children’, not knowing if I was going to have any, and the fact I couldn’t do the complicated wedding dance we had learned because my arm was sore from the surgery. I couldn’t even wear the pretty wedding underwear I’d bought because I needed to wear a more comfortable sports bra.
“In spite of that, it was a lovely day and something nice to remember when I went back into hospital the following week. I needed another operation to remove all my lymph nodes, as the results of the biopsy showed the cancer had spread to them.
“It was also nice to be able to show my wedding pictures to the nurses when I went back to start my chemotherapy - three cycles of FEC - fluorouracil, epirubicin and cyclophosphamide - followed by three of Taxotere (docetaxel). I suffered complete hair loss almost immediately, and was too ill to be able to go to our best friends’ wedding in late August. But there were issues in any case - I was meant to be a bridesmaid, and the bride was not keen on the idea of a bridesmaid who was bald. Thankfully my other friends were more supportive during both the chemo and the four weeks of radiotherapy as well as the year of Herceptin which followed.
“David was also supportive, but the life we had planned together was clearly not to be, and although we were together for 18 months, the strain put on our new marriage by the cancer and the treatment was too hard. We re-evaluated what we wanted and decided we were not right for each other. One factor was that we had planned a family, but although I saw fertility specialists and could have had my eggs harvested, it would have delayed my chemotherapy, which the oncologist did not recommend.
“However, David and I stayed friendly, and the school where I work was also incredibly supportive. My head teacher came to visit me at home to bring me ‘chemo presents’ after each treatment to cheer me up again. I had nearly a year off work before returning to teach at a school in Durham.
“I am now in the sixth year of 10 years of Tamoxifen, and although doctors tell me they do not use the words ‘all-clear’ or ‘remission’ I had hoped to hear, they believe the surgery, followed by the chemo and radiotherapy should have prevented the cancer returning.
“Although I’m not settled with a family as I expected to be by now, I’ve been in a new relationship for two and a half years, and am trying to make the most out of life. Cancer has taught me life is short, and has also given me confidence to face new challenges.
“I have run the Race for Life since 2008, and while I did not know I had cancer when I signed up for the 2010 race, I ran it that year for everyone like me who was waiting for their test results. In 2016 I not only ran the race myself but organised one for the school - all 150 children took part, and I am planning to organise that to happen again in 2017, as we raised a decent amount of money for Cancer Research UK, a charity close to my heart for obvious reasons.
“I fully believe that without the many and varied treatments I have undergone and am still going through I would not be here today. Continued research into treatments for all kinds of cancer is so valuable in the hope for a future cancer-free world. I’ll keep doing my part raising whatever money I can - cancer I’m coming to get you!”
Katy is supporting Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life in partnership with Tesco. Run, walk or jog in one of over 300 nationwide events this summer. 5k or marathon, every pound raised, from £10 to £100, will help beat cancer. Sign up right now at raceforlife.org