Living in a current three-tier state of affairs, as I am here in Liverpool, I’m aware that there are more ‘days’ and ‘months’ in the year than ever before. As I type, it’s World Menopause Day, so I have taken to writing this in peace, to ignore the clouds of steam pouring out of my ears as I have to listen to one more explanation as to why VAR is the worst thing to ever happen to football. I’m not knocking the fact that so many worthy causes and issues have their own designated ‘day’ or ‘month’ to be talked about, as I wrote about World Mental Health Day last time I put pen to paper.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it’s something I have tended to try and avoid thinking about in the past too much. I like to think I have supported friends affected by breast cancer, but that’s as far as I have gone. Having had my first formal letter to have a breast cancer check done, I wanted to know more. And just for the record, Amanda Holden’s boobs helped me make that decision. I don’t care if putting her mammogram on Insta attracted criticism. It got me responding to my NHS letter.
This month, I’ve had the honour of speaking to two women with different but such valuable stories to tell. The first is Lisa Fleming, who launched Make 2nds Count after her own experience of secondary breast cancer, an illness she is still living with, and something I had not heard about before we met. I asked her to tell me more about her journey.
What has your own journey with Secondary Breast Cancer been like?
I was just living my life as wife and mum and while I had already experienced previous health issues, I was diagnosed with primary and secondary breast cancer and my life simply changed forever. I had no previous primary breast cancer diagnosis and like so many people I had no idea what secondary breast cancer was. I found out the cancer had already spread to my skeleton, and at the beginning of 2018 that it was now affecting my brain.
My ‘new normal’ became a constant round of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgeries. I am living with Stage 4 cancer, and at the moment my situation is classed as ‘stable’ but what has kept me going throughout the process was a drive to create awareness. That’s when I decided to set up a dedicated charity to really keep Secondary Breast Cancer in the news, and also create a safe space for women, and also men, who are diagnosed with this condition.
Of course, it has been incredibly tough on me personally. But I have also been able to turn the negatives into positives wherever I can. If anyone who reads about my story, and looks at the signs for Secondary Breast Cancer, does not leave it, but immediately goes to their GP to discuss it if they are worried, then that’s so important to me and all of the team.
It is hard for any charity to operate right now, and so I just want to get this important message out there. And it’s also vital to let people know that even during a pandemic their GPs are still available. Early detection is absolutely the way forward wherever possible.
What encouraged you to launch Make 2nds Count and what does the charity do?
Make 2nds Count is a patient and family-focused charity based in Edinburgh dedicated to giving hope to women and men living with secondary breast cancer. We strive to do this by raising awareness and funding medical research that will contribute to advancing an increased quality of life for patients. Our community programme supports patients and families affected by this incurable disease also known as metastatic breast cancer.
The team’s work is based around research, support and education and our team members range from our permanent staff, dedicated volunteers and patient champions. As well as sending out our important educational message, we also need to fundraise to fund what we do, and we have lots of ways you can help. During the pandemic our regular Tuesday Facebook Virtual Tea and Chat group has been really popular and we feature relevant guests who bring lots of info, warmth and fun!
I was so impressed by Lisa’s bravery and candour, and it got me talking to friends about their own thoughts and feelings. One great friend (thank you, Jan Williams!) led me to The Body Clinic, based in Liverpool, who have been busy with their Pink Walktober campaign, raising funds for vital cancer rehabilitation care. This is just one of a number of brilliant treatment programmes on offer, for women of all ages and backgrounds. I spoke to Faye from The Body Clinic about some of the fantastic work her and the team are doing.
Can you tell me more about what you do at The Body Clinic, Faye?
I am Senior Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist and I run a The Body Clinic Liverpool alongside my sister Hollie who is a podiatrist. We offer a range of different services and treatments for patients with MSK conditions, injuries and problems with the foot and ankle. Our biggest aim to get our community moving better with our Pilates Classes which we host on a weekly basis, which have been so popular during 2020, as vital social contact has been lessened.
I am also a PINC Physiotherapist and provide a specialised rehabilitation programme for women living with and beyond cancer. Cancer rehabilitation is hugely rewarding work to be in and it can truly make a difference to people’s lives. Many people suffer with fatigue, pain, scarring, limited mobility and life changing side effects after having invasive cancer treatments and surgeries. As a PINC physio, I can help people throughout their recovery process and help to get people to return to normal life. Our Instagram has really been concentrating on success stories this month, too. Of course, we must be so mindful that many women are struggling with breast cancer at every stage. However, as a team we want to provide helpful and supportive treatments that I know from our clients make a real difference.
How can I get involved in Pink Walktober?
For Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year, we decided to organise PINK WALKTOBER – we are going to walk 26 miles (a marathon!) over this month and we want to invite as many people to get involved! This year we have decided to raise and donate money to the PINC&STEEL foundation UK. This is a charity set up to actively support thousands of people across the UK and Ireland throughout their personal journeys through cancer.
In an increasingly uncertain world, it is always time to stop and think when you talk to such inspirational people. Even during the toughest of circumstances, they are doing all that they can to overcome personal challenges as well as creating awareness, and working within communities to make sure that those in need of vital help are treated with understanding and positivity.
As for me, I am hoping my first mammogram goes well. After speaking to Lisa and to Faye, it’s never been more important to be an advocate for your own health. And no matter how much stick Amanda Holden gets, I’m quite thankful to her Ofcom-defying boobs. If they save lives, she can wear whatever necklines she likes.
To find about more about Make 2nds Count go to www.make2ndscount.co.uk
To find out more about The Body Clinic go to www.thebodyclinic.uk
To get involved in Pink Walktober go to:
About the author: Nancy Buckland Kirk is a writer with a keen interest in fashion and beauty and a career which has spanned modelling, teaching and spreading the word about leading beauty brands. Here are some links to Nancy’s features on mental health.