When Sharon Botting started getting pins and needles in her chest, she was confident she had nothing to worry about.
So the mum-of-two from Cuckfield was stunned when doctors diagnosed an aggressive form of breast cancer in July 2012.
She said: “It all began when I felt pins and needles in my chest area. I went to see my GP who examined me and found a lump.”
Sharon was referred to see specialists at the Princess Royal hospital as well as in Brighton.
“I just put everything in their hands,” she said, “but at this stage I didn’t feel I had anything to worry about. I’d had a mammogram about seven months before and nothing had shown up so because of that, it didn’t occur to me that it could be cancer.”
For Sharon, the symptom that first raised concerns was the ‘pins and needles’ sensation and sometime after her diagnosis she was told the tumour had made its way into nerve tissue.
“The consultant said he was concerned about what they had found,” Sharon explained. “Once they had done the biopsy I could see on their faces that it wasn’t straightforward. It’s what everybody dreads. When they said it was cancer I was in total and utter shock. I just wasn’t ready for that at all.”
Sharon, who has been married for 36 years and works as a wedding supervisor, was diagnosed with grade three breast cancer; a fast growing, aggressive form of the breast cancer, which had already developed quite significantly.
“The Macmillan nurse went through it all,” she said. “I was in disbelief about what was happening. I had never felt so well after training for the Race for Life and it brought it home to me how important it is to be so thorough when you check your breasts for lumps.”
Sharon began her treatment with surgery, which revealed it had not spread to the lymph nodes but because the type of breast cancer was so aggressive she decided, with support and guidance from her consultant and Macmillan nurse, to have courses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Sharon recalled: “It was likely the cancer could come back, even though the lump had been removed.
“You either run in the opposite direction or you face it front on. I just had to face it and run towards it. I was fearful and scared, I thought losing my hair was going to be the end of the world.
For me it helped to get the information that I needed from Macmillan, my Oncologist and my GP and asking those questions made life a little bit easier.”
Sharon underwent six cycles of chemotherapy followed by four weeks of radiotherapy.
“I had moments during the chemotherapy when I questioned if I could get through this, but I did it. I dealt with everything that was thrown at me,” she said.
“Walking away from my last regular appointment was a fantastic feeling – my hair was growing back after the chemotherapy, it was just an incredible relief.”Sharon now attends annual check-ups and will continue taking oestrogen-inhibiting drugs for four or five years.
“I just have to get on with my life,” she said. “One of the toughest things is living with it. You have to put it somewhere, while keeping an eye on things. The doctors and nurses have done their bit and now it is up to me to keep checking.I urge everyone to make checking your breasts for lumps, and other signs of cancer, a part of your life routine; in the shower or the bath maybe. If there is anything of concern – get it checked out, don’t hesitate, don’t be afraid. The GP is there to support you and listen to you and if necessary they can get you where you need to be for treatment. Had I ignored the early symptoms I don’t know where I would be now or if I would still be here at all. You have to take responsibility and be aware of the signs.
“Please - don’t put off going to see your GP. The best way to battle breast cancer is to catch it early, it’s all about proactive self-checks.”
Sharon has set herself a fundraising challenge in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.
She will hike to the summit of a 3,203 metre high Austrian mountain in August this year to raise a target £3,203, with all money going to the charity.
To support Sharon visit www.justgiving.com/feelgoodandfundraise