09 Feb ESSEX MUM THANKS DOCTORS FOR SAVING HER LIFE AFTER GRAPEFRUIT SIZE BREAST TUMOUR DIAGNOSIS
This week (Feb 13th) Danielle Harrison (45), is celebrating 12 years in remission and wants to thank her surgeon and oncologist for giving her precious time with her family.
Danielle, who feared her children would forget her if she lost her battle with cancer, wants to highlight the treatment that saved her life and is supporting Cancer Research UK’s Walk All Over Cancer campaign for life-saving research.
She is inviting people to sign up now and get sponsored to walk 10,000 steps every day in March to support the charity’s life-saving mission.
Danielle, from Romford, had no idea a huge tumour was growing inside her body when she discovered a small lump, after returning home from a two-week holiday in the South of France.
She said: “I felt a lump in my right breast I had not noticed, in spite of having been in and out of swimwear the previous month on holiday. My GP thought it was nothing, and only reluctantly referred me to the breast clinic to be seen within two weeks. I pushed for the referral, even though I also thought it would prove to be nothing at all.
“I had a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy, which was very painful, because my tumour was so large. It was a Saturday when I was called back to be told by the doctor: ‘You have cancer – but we are going to get rid of it.”
At the time Danielle was a 33-year-old young mum to Amy (4) and Luke (1) when she was given the shocking news that a large and aggressive tumour, around 9 x 10 cm round, was growing in her right breast.
Danielle, who was a size 12 at the time, said she was left astounded when doctors told her how big the tumour was, she added: “I was gobsmacked, it came as a big shock and I was petrified as to what lay ahead. They said it was an aggressive tumour, already measuring 9x10cm, and they wanted to start chemo the following week.
Thankfully, chemotherapy shrunk Danielle’s tumour to half its size allowing surgeons to remove it and then perform a reconstruction
She added: “My chemo was stopped, as the tumour had shrunk to 4 x 5cm, and my surgery was brought forward. On February 13 I had a mastectomy with a simultaneous reconstruction; it may have been Friday the 13th, but it was a lucky day for me. The tumour was so concise, the doctors were confident they had taken out all the cancer, and none was seen in the 24 lymph nodes they took, even though it had originally been seen there.”
Danielle’s surgery lasted over eight hours but she said that wasn’t the most difficult part of her treatment, she added: “The hardest part was not being able to cuddle my baby, as I had been warned the chemo could seep from my pores into his skin. So, I had to wear cotton gloves for several days and we moved him from a cot to a bed earlier than we had planned so I wouldn’t have to pick him up so much. I would not have managed without the help of my family, who really stepped up, and local mums who did the school runs for us.”
Danielle knows first-hand just how important new breakthroughs and discoveries are to help more people like her survive, she continued: “ I have remained cancer-free for more than 11 years. Last year I just finished 10 years of tamoxifen and now I just have annual mammograms. I am grateful I do not have to worry about my daughter having inherited the breast cancer gene mutation, as I had genetic testing which proved negative.
There are around 55,200 new breast cancer cases in the UK every year -that’s around 150 every day. It’s the most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 15% of all new cancer cases, with 81% women diagnosed, requiring surgery.
Danielle continued: “If it wasn’t for early detection, I wouldn’t be here today and I’m truly grateful for everything my doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals did for me, as I know my children were so young they would not have remembered me if I hadn’t won my battle.”
Danielle said she is encouraging everyone in Essex to step up to the Walk All Over Cancer challenge this March. By raising vital funds, people across the region could help to get vital research back on track after the impact of COVID-19.
There are plenty of positive health benefits too. As well as helping towards a healthy body weight, taking part could also take a little weight off the mind. Regular walking is a great stress-reliever and can assist with mental wellbeing by improving mood and sleep.
Patrick Keely, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson for Essex, said: “We are so grateful to Danielle for sharing her story and highlighting the importance of research in saving lives.
“We all want 2021 to have a more positive outlook. So why not give yourself a boost by committing to get more active and having an achievable goal to aim for – all in aid of a good cause. Signing up to Walk All Over Cancer is a safe and simple way to show support during these challenging times. Plus, knowing you’ll be helping to save lives is the ultimate motivation.”
Ten thousand steps is equal to about five miles, based on the average person’s strides, so by the end of March participants will have clocked up more than 150 miles.
That’s quite a challenge for some, but adopting small changes that you can stick to can really add up – whether it’s taking part in conference calls on the go, exploring local beauty spots or treating the dog to a month of extra-long walks.
Keeping check on the number of steps taken each day is a great way to create a sense of achievement and it’s easy to do with smartphone apps, pedometers and wearable activity trackers available to help. Walk All Over Cancer is now integrated with FitBit, so that participants can automatically publish their step count on their fundraising page throughout the month.
Patrick Keely added: “With around 35,500 people diagnosed with cancer every year in the East of England*, Cancer Research UK is working every day to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease.
“The truth is COVID-19 has slowed us down, but we will never stop striving to create better treatments for tomorrow. Every step our scientists take towards beating cancer relies on our supporters. That’s why we need everyone to step up to Walk All Over Cancer.”
Cancer Research UK currently funds almost half of all publicly funded cancer research in the UK and is the only UK charity fighting more than 200 types of cancer.
Before the pandemic, it was able to spend over £60 million in the East of England last year on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.
To sign up and receive a free fundraising pack, with tips and ideas to help with the challenge, visit cruk.org/walkallover.