THE signs can be similar, but the moment people realise they may be suffering from cancer is different for everyone.
Looking back, one Worcestershire woman who is battling back from breast cancer realises that the first warning sign came when something didn’t feel quite right as she enjoyed her favourite pastime of ringing the bells at her local church.
Sheila Andrews, of Hanley Swan, near Malvern, had always enjoyed walking and cycling, as well as indulging her energetic bell-ringing hobby at St Gabriel’s church.
But the 72-year-old decided that something was definitely wrong when she felt a lump on her breast after going to bed one night last March, but realised the alarm bells should have been sounding a few days earlier.
“Looking back there had been odd signs that I really didn’t pick up on,” she said.
“I regularly ring the church bells, but one day while I was doing it, my bra suddenly didn’t feel very comfortable at all.”
As soon as she found the lump, the married mother-of-three sprang into action, visiting her doctor immediately and seeing a specialist just a few days later. Soon afterwards she had a lumpectomy and then embarked on a short course of radiotherapy in Cheltenham.
Almost exactly a year after being diagnosed, Mrs Andrews is no longer undergoing treatment and is having regular check-ups with her specialist to ensure that there are no further problems.
Now she is backing the Department of Health’s Be Clear on Cancer breast awareness campaign urging other women to act quickly the moment they suspect something may be wrong and give themselves the best chance of beating the disease.
“Of course you don’t want to believe it at first, but my hope is that people will not be too frightened by the idea of breast cancer that they delay,” she said.
“It is better to get cracking. I found that I was willing to accept I had something and just wanted it cured, not today but yesterday. I acted quickly and so did all the health authorities.”
Mrs Andrews also found strength to tackle her experience from the fact that her eldest daughter Lizzie had successfully beaten breast cancer almost a decade earlier at the age of 39.
As two women from her family have now been diagnosed with breast cancer, she also contacted her younger daughter Kate, who had herself checked out and was given the all clear.
Mrs Andrews now wants others to take every precaution. “Be aware of any visual signs, check yourself physically and go for your mammograms,” she said.