We are survivors

SIDMOUTH will be in the pink again on Friday, October 16, raising awareness and money for Cancer Research UK s breast cancer campaign.

SIDMOUTH will be in the pink again on Friday, October 16, raising awareness and money for Cancer Research UK's breast cancer campaign.

Manor Close neighbours, Di Faulkner and Cynthia Baker, spoke this week about their experiences of being diagnosed with breast cancer, which is now the most common cancer in the UK.

In 2006 more than 45,500 women were diagnosed - 125 women a day. Each year 300 men also get breast cancer.

With the incidence of cases rising by more than 50 per cent in the last 25 years, the NHS breast screening programme in England saves around 1,400 lives a year.

Di, 67, who used to run Sidmouth Surf Shop with husband Roger, was diagnosed five years ago after being recalled after having a mammogram at the mobile unit that visits Sidmouth.

She said a few women that year were diagnosed, adding: "They said there was a shadow that had been there six years. I saw a surgeon that day and I had a lumpectomy on March 17, 2005 and radiotherapy for five days (every weekday) for six weeks.

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"I had a few burns and tiredness and, by the end of it, I was really sore, but I didn't have chemotherapy.

"I was devastated, I think it is worse for the people around you, people who are close to you. They don't know how to deal with it."

On her right side, Di had not felt any lumps that warned her of a problem, because her cancer was deep set.

As it was non-aggressive she didn't need a mastectomy but has been on medication since her operation and says she will not get the all clear from her surgeon, Julie Dunn, or oncologist, who she sees twice a year, until 2010.

With no breast cancer in her family, Di said: "I had an aunt by marriage who had it diagnosed in her early 20s and she is now in her 90s.

"Before I had it, cancer was a dirty word. Now I find it easy to say it is not a death sentence, so much more can be done. I think your outlook has a lot to do with that, you have to be positive, and Roger has been supportive."

Neighbour Cynthia, 83, only discovered her breast cancer in 2000, aged 74, after volunteering in Sidmouth's Cancer Research UK shop, where she now been for 14 years.

"I read one of the leaflets telling you to feel for lumps. I had never bothered but one day in the bath I was soapy and felt something that I didn't think was right," she said.

"It was a Friday evening and on the Saturday I went to the health centre and they found a lump on my left side.

"I had a mastectomy because I had no choice because of the position of the lump. I am glad about that because it has all gone and if I leave my prosthesis out no-one notices!"

Cynthia had three weeks of radiotherapy "as a precaution"; she now suffers from lymphodema because the gland is not flowing properly.

Both women praised their surgeon, Miss Dunn, and staff at the Royal Devon and Exeter (Wonford) Hospital for their care during their operations.

Di also praised the FORCE centre for the support it gives cancer sufferers.

Both back Pink Day and say it raises awareness of breast cancer.

Di would also like prostate cancer to be given a higher profile and make more men aware of it.

Survival rates for breast cancer are improving, with eight out of 10 patients surviving beyond five years.

Women on HRT for five or more years are 35 per cent more likely to contract it, while an active lifestyle reduces the risk.

l To find out more about breast cancer and how to get involved in Breast Cancer Awareness Month, check out www.cancerresearchuk.org/breastcancer or visit the Sidmouth shop.