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Climbing mountains against breast cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a time to wear pink and raise awareness and money. And, if you are Cheryl Booth, it is a time to show breast cancer who’s the boss, by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

We recently talked to Cheryl about her diagnosis, how it’s driving her to push herself to the limit and help fund more cancer-beating research.

Diagnosis

I think the greatest fear for everyone is the thought of becoming ill and, even worse, being told you have cancer.  To deal with both is life changing.

“In November 2012, aged 50, I found a lump in my left breast. Like most people, I chose to ignore it, although I was aware of its existence.  The lump got slightly bigger so I spoke to a friend and she advised me to go to the doctor, which I did.  He referred me to Basingstoke Hospital and my appointment came through for two weeks later.

My friend and I drove there expecting just to have a routine mammogram.  But it identified something suspicious. Further tests were immediately arranged and the results were ready 5 hours later.  The speed of this struck me with fear.  The medical team said they had concerns.

They had concerns.

I was terrified.  ‘Oh my God’ I thought. This is it. CANCER. The diagnosis of invasive ductal/lobular breast cancer was given to me and my family on 17th December 2012. Merry Christmas. Our journey with cancer was just beginning. I had a mastectomy on 4th February 2013 and the chemo started in April.  My next worry was losing my hair and this became a reality shortly after.  I felt part of me was lost and my identity was being erased. I was so scared and it seemed like I was the only one going through it, which was obviously not the case.

I worked throughout my treatment, partly for financial reasons and also to try and keep my life as "normal" as it could be.  I felt very blessed to have tremendous support from my employers, colleagues, friends and family. I have always remained positive throughout my treatment although there have been lots of tears, but not once have I thought "why me?”  This awful disease is not selective with its choice of victims.

Climbing to the next chapter in life

Cancer has given me the strength to appreciate living and be thankful for every day.  That is why, when I saw the Kilimanjaro trek in your newsletter, I had this overwhelming urge to ring and register, so I did without even thinking about it! I am currently in remission, I am a little crazy but I love life and I want to live it, with or without cancer.

When I went in to work the next day everyone was shocked and amazed, dumbfounded even with one colleague saying “Cheryl you can’t, think about what you have been though? You could die!” It did make me hesitate but then I decided for once and for all to take on the challenge. I have beaten cancer, I can beat this too.

I have been training hard with my dog Asha, who now looks so fit with all the walking she has had to do with me. We have climbed Butser Hill a few times, and left my friends puffing and panting while we marched on.

So now here we are in October 2015 and I am taking on the challenge of trekking up Mount Kilimanjaro in a matter of days.  It is ‘only’ 19,341ft and they tell me it will take 5-6 days to complete.  So if I'm not back by the end of 2015 please send out a search party!

I think we forget cancer is a worldwide disease, and that is why I have chosen to support Worldwide Cancer Research. I am trying to give something back to the research that helped save my life and my aim is to raise £4,200.  I know it seems a lot of money and I have been holding other fund-raising events to help but if you are able to sponsor me or make donations that would be amazing https://www.justgiving.com/Cheryl-Booth

Thanks for reading this and remember I was not the first and undoubtedly will not be the last to take on the fight against cancer.”

We are in awe of people like Cheryl and want to wish her the best of luck with this next life-changing experience in this new chapter of her life – Go for it!

 

Science Communication Manager at Worldwide Cancer Research

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