Get checked, urges breast cancer survivor

AHEAD of Breast Cancer Awareness month in October, a survivor from Ottery St Mary is urging people to get checked.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a lump or a strange sensation, if it’s unusual to your body then make an appointment, says Diane Aspinall, of Luxtons Park.

The 52-year-old was diagnosed in November 2007.

“I could feel the beginnings of a lump, but nothing you’d think was out of the ordinary,” said Diane. “Then one night I felt something twanging, like an elastic band; it was then I knew I needed to do something about it.”

Her GP referred her to the breast cancer unit at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, and two weeks later she was having a biopsy.

The next step was surgery to have the lump removed, but surgeon Julie Dunn found a much larger lump than anticipated, so suggested a mastectomy.

“She explained that if I didn’t have breast removed, I could be in a position where, in two years’ time, I would have to come back and it would all start again,” said Diane.

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“It was a hard choice to make, and even after the prosthesis is fitted, you’re still aware of the fact and wonder if people can tell.”

Diane underwent three weeks of daily radiotherapy, going for the treatment then heading to work as team manager for Devon and Cornwall Housing Association in Newton Abbot.

“It was in the evenings it had the biggest impact,” she said. “The adrenalin kept me going during the day.”

At first, she felt like the whole thing was happening to someone else.

She said: “I thought, what are you talking about? I don’t feel ill, I’m working full-time and am fully functioning. It was a big shock, for me and my partner Tony.”

She has now had her three-monthly check-ups downgraded to six-monthly, and said the aftercare at the RD&E was “superb”.

She added: “I’ve become vegetarian, lost a stone in weight and feel better now than I have done in years. Something positive has come out of something very negative.”

Breast Cancer UK research shows around one in nine women will suffer from breast cancer at some time in their life. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women under the age of 35.

“It could be your sister, mum, grandmother, aunt, any female around you,” said Diane. “If you’re thinking of fundraising, that’s what you should focus on.”

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