Cancer screening was my lifesaver

Cancer screening was my lifesaver

17 October 2012

KIRCUBBIN mother Inez Fowler believes her life was saved through a screening programme offered by Action Cancer.

A 47 year-old mother of one, Inez attended her first screening four years ago after a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She received the all clear from the radiographers at that time, but had “cold feet” about returning for a second screening two years later.

Inez said she finally decided to go back for a further mammogram last year when two other people she knew were diagnosed with breast cancer in quick succession.

She said she telephoned Action Cancer and booked herself and her friend in for a mammogram, followed by an afternoon of shopping and a light lunch to make the day more enjoyable.

Although Inez recalls that the mammogram was itself fine and the atmosphere welcoming within the Action Cancer unit, she said she had a gut feeling that something was wrong as she was leaving.

“When I got home I checked my breasts thoroughly,” she said.”I did notice something on my right breast – not a lump but a certain hardness, like a thickness developing.

“Two weeks after the appointment I received a letter referring me to the hospital for further tests. At that stage I just knew. My appointment was scheduled for two weeks later.”

Inez recalls travelling in silence to her follow-up appointment with her husband Davy and her daughter.

“We arrived early in the morning and the waiting room was full to capacity,” she says.

“Over the course of the day I had a series of needle biopsies and a core biopsy. I noticed the waiting room gradually emptying throughout the day, but four hours later we were still there.

“Finally my husband and I were brought into a private room. The consultant told me, “We have all the results back now. You have stage three breast cancer and will need surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.”

Although she admits feeling like her world was “tumbling down”, Inez said she immediately decided she could either “sink or swim” and she told her consultant to forge ahead with treatment.

“I said ‘let’s do it’ — I’m still a young woman and I’ve too many tables to dance on yet!. That was when I decided that this thing was not going to beat me. No way.”

Three days later Inez received more worrying news when she was told the cancer was also in her lymph nodes. At the end of June 2011 she had surgery to remove the mass and the nodes and she said within four days she was at a party celebrating her niece’s return from New York.

“I wasn’t going to stop living,” she said.

“I started the first of six chemotherapy sessions on August 9. I found the first session, the unknown, the most difficult but then I just had to get on with it.

“Two weeks after I’d finished my first chemotherapy I started to lose my hair but that was not an issue for me as I accessorised with funky scarves and colourful glasses so I still felt like myself. I also tried to wear lippy and blusher most days — I still wanted to look well.”

Six months later Inez underwent chemotherapy alongside her father-in-law, who was receiving treatment for prostate cancer.

“For me, keeping positive helped enormously. You can’t bury your head in the sand — you ought to be proactive about your health. I was, and Action Cancer helped to save my life,” she said.

Inez is now encouraging other women to be proactive about their health and attend Action Cancer’s screening clinics. There will be the opportunity for local women between 40 and 49 and over 70 to sign up for the free clinics this Friday in Gordon’s clinics in Downpatrick, Saintfield and Ballynahinch, as part of ‘Breast Action Day.’

Visitors to Gordon’s on Friday will also have the opportunity to sign the Ribbon on Hope, showing their support for those affected by breast cancer or to remember those they have lost to the disease.