It’s probably the best-kept secret at Verner Wheelock – but only because she wanted it that way…. Whilst we were all feeling sorry for ourselves because we couldn’t go out for a drink or see our friends and family during lockdown, a much-loved member of our team had far more serious things to worry about. Sam Day, our Ethical Audit Co-ordinator had breast cancer.
The news came as a huge shock to everybody, including Sam herself. But in true Sam fashion, she just got on with it. She barely missed a day’s work, donning an assortment of headscarves as she began to lose her lovely glossy hair. We didn’t hear her complain, even though there were times when she was tired, in pain and dealing with the day-to-day of being a busy working mum to twins.
Sam’s next challenge
Sam has shown incredible strength and been an absolute trouper throughout. Now that she has completed her treatment, she is taking on another challenge – a gruelling 5-day trek along the Rob Roy Way in the Scottish Highlands for the charity CoppaFeel. CoppaFeel’s goal is to give everybody the best possible chance of surviving breast cancer by raising awareness and getting the message out there to check your breasts (or pecs if you’re male).
We would love it if you could help Sam to reach her fundraising target of £2,250 before the end of July. If you would like to donate, please visit Sam’s fundraising page https://coppafeel.enthuse.com
Thank you so much! Sam’s story is below
Sam’s story – in her own words
I am a 37 year old northern lass and mum to 7 year-old twins. I would describe myself as a family girl who loves a boogie. My go-to drink would be a cup of Yorkshire Tea but I do love a glass of rose wine.
In April of 2020, during the first lockdown, I found a lump under my right armpit whilst playing with the kids. It felt tight and once I noticed that, I felt around and felt the second lump at the top of my right breast. I was 36 at the time and didn’t really think much of it, but knew it was best to get it checked.
Because of Covid I had to make a telephone appointment with a GP. She was lovely and referred me straight away for a mammogram. The following week, I had an ultrasound and a mammogram which showed the lumps and a biopsy was taken from each one. I was told there was a possibility it could be cancer but I would have to wait until the results came back, so an appointment was made for the following week.
The following Monday my mum came with me to my appointment where I was told I had stage 2, grade 3 triple negative breast cancer. This meant that the cancer had spread to a number of lymph nodes under my arm, but I would need a full CT Scan to make sure it hadn’t spread any further. Thankfully it hadn’t! The next week was a whirlwind of appointments to prepare me for treatment, including a CT Scan, X-ray, the fitting of a picc line and a number of blood tests – one to check if I had the BRCA gene (inherited) which came back negative. I was just unlucky.
Triple Negative Breast Cancer
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is considered an aggressive type of cancer because it grows quickly. It’s more likely to have spread at the time it’s found and is more likely to come back after treatment than other types of breast cancer. If not caught early, the outlook is generally not as good as it is for other types of breast cancer.
Stage 2 TNBC – Around 90 out of 100 women (around 90%) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.
My first chemo started the week after my diagnosis on the 5th May, 2.5 weeks since I found my lump. I was to have 6 sessions of chemotherapy which would be given through a picc line and I had to visit the hospital every week to get my picc line flushed and have bloods taken. The prospect of losing my hair was hard so I tried the cool cap which is a procedure which reduces blood flow to the scalp, which in turn reduced the amount of chemo from reaching that area. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me and I was losing a lot of hair daily, so in the end I asked my partner to shave it off. Losing my hair was probably the hardest part of it all.
Chemo finished on the 18th August and I was booked in to have my operation in September. As the chemotherapy had been effective and shrunk my cancer I was able to keep my boob and just have the remaining cancer and lymph nodes removed.
Radiotherapy started in November and I had to go to hospital every day (Mon-Fri) for 4 weeks but was finished in time for Christmas and the start of a new year!
Overall, I remained positive throughout my treatment. As we were all shielding due to Covid, I didn’t want my children to be affected by what I was going through. Yes, I had a couple of wobbles and didn’t feel 100% for a couple of days after chemo, but I continued to work and tried to carry on as normal. Losing my hair was tough and my daughter found it hard to see me without my hair. Thankfully, it started to grow back quickly and she was able to see the mummy she recognised again.
Having a great support network around me helped massively. My partner, my family, my work family and close friends were all amazing!
I wanted to do a challenge before the 1st anniversary of my final radiotherapy on 15th December 2020 – The day I rang the bell! So when my sister told me about CoppaFeel’s ‘Come Fly with Gi’ challenge, I thought why not?! I want a challenge that will push me and to prove to myself that I am over cancer and the treatment so I can put it behind me and move on both physically and mentally.
A group of us (80-100) will be trekking the Scottish highlands over 5 days and camping out at a base camp away from it all.
It will be tough and some days we will be walking up to 9 hours, others we will be hiking up a 1500m ascent.
CoppaFeel was founded in 2009 by Kristin Hallenga and her twin sister Maren after Kristin was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer at the age of 23! Secondary breast cancer is when the primary breast cancer has spread to other parts of your body which can be treated but can not be cured. CoppaFeel’s goal is to give everybody the best possible chance of surviving breast cancer by raising awareness and getting the message out there to check your boobs with step by step guidance on how to check, what to look out for and also with monthly reminders to cop a feel!
I didn’t check my boobs regularly and found the lump by total coincidence as it felt tight one day when I lifted my arm up high. I am so thankful I got it checked, as if I had left it much longer the outcome could have been much more different. I want to help raise awareness and money for a charity with such an important message! Cancer doesn’t discriminate and we are all vulnerable so let’s stop it early and help save lives!