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Mum beat cancer and became a black belt
A DETERMINED mum-of-two showed she was up for the fight to beat breast cancer – by winning her black belt in tae kwon do.
Life-long martial arts enthusiast Michelle Baird fought her way to the achievement just days after a biopsy confirmed doctor’s suspicions she was suffering from rare Paget’s disease.
The 50-year-old, of Norton, near Worcester, briefly questioned whether to go ahead before the fighting spirit with which she has tackled her illness with from the start kicked in.
Mrs Baird first noticed symptoms last June but ignored them, thinking it could be “a million different things”.
After eventually deciding to get it checked out by her GP, she was immediately referred to the breast clinic at Worcestershire Royal Hospital. Tests including a mammogram, ultrasounds and an initial ‘punch’ biopsy proved inconclusive but, recognising the signs of Paget’s – a rare cancer of the nipple or surrounding area – her specialist sent her for a second biopsy.
Mrs Baird’s tae kwon do exam fell just two days later but she was determined to fight no matter what challenges lay ahead.
She said: “I had worked so hard for it and I thought there is nothing that is going to stop me. It actually took my mind off things and I put on the performance of my life and was ecstatic when I passed.”
She then needed all her fighting spirit in the weeks ahead, as the diagnosis of Paget’s was confirmed and she underwent a partial mastectomy.
“They found I had a small but ‘high grade’ tumour that would have spread had it been left any longer. It was good that I acted when I did because it has saved a lot of anguish and further problems,” she said.
Mrs Baird is now having follow-up treatment and hopes her story may help others recognise the signs of Paget’s early.
Symptoms are often mistaken for those of dermatitis or eczema. They include itching, tingling or redness in the nipple or areola, a flattened nipple, flaking or thickened skin and discharge that may be yellow or bloody. Mrs Baird said. “If reading what happened to me can save just one person then that will be something really positive.”
Mrs Baird, who works as a licensing officer for Stratford-upon-Avon District Council, said her experience had given her a “new outlook on life”.
Mrs Baird has been working with Breakthrough Breast Cancer to raise awareness of her condition. To support the charity, call 08080 100200.