Living with secondary breast cancer


Ahead of our Be Aware, Show You Care fundraiser this evening, we asked one of our guests, Letitia, to share her experiences of living with breast cancer. Please tune in from 6pm to learn more about this devastating disease as we raise funds for Breast Cancer Care, and we’ll be giving you the chance to support those living in the UK with breast cancer. Thank you.

Letitia headshotI am one of 36,000 thousand people in the UK currently living with secondary breast cancer. This type of cancer cannot be cured but it can be treated and controlled. Today (Monday 13th October) is Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day; a day dedicated to raising awareness of what it is like to live with this disease.

I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 when I was 54 years old. I was married with a 24-year-old son and my family and friends were incredible. They supported me unquestioningly. After I finished my treatment, which included a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, I was determined to get on with my life and put the whole experience behind me. I went back to work and started training for, and then ran, the London and Edinburgh marathons. I started to trust my body again. Then, just after celebrating being five years clear of the disease, I was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer. It was devastating.

I was incredibly scared but luckily I knew I could find support through Breast Cancer Care. I’d used their services when I was diagnosed with breast cancer the first time. Breast Cancer Care helped me to realise that people can live for years with secondary breast cancer. That there is hope.

I now use Breast Cancer Care’s Helpline and online forum and I will also start attending its Living with Secondary Breast Cancer support group in Derby when it starts later this year. Breast Cancer Care is a place for me to ask questions about my diagnosis and treatment, as well as offering me an ear when I want to talk about things which are too scary to share with my loved ones.

That’s why I was so pleased to see Breast Cancer Care’s new activity to mark Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day. The charity is highlighting how many women living with secondary breast cancer are experiencing physical pain almost daily. This is something that I can relate to because regular pain is something I also have to manage. I take pain killers to help me cope. The pain I experience affects my mobility and as a result, I had to give up my job as a social worker. I loved my job and it was hugely important to me, so this has left me feeling like I have lost some of my identity. My lack of mobility also means I have had to stop doing the exercise I love. Previously long distance running and kick boxing had been a huge part of my life and I was a really active person. Now I have had to adjust and undertake gentler sports like walking, yoga and Tai Chi. That has been difficult to come to terms with.

Today I will appear on QVC’s Be Aware, Show You Care show which raises vital funds for Breast Cancer Care. I will use this opportunity to raise awareness of my secondary diagnosis and also to talk about a fashion show I took part in a couple of weeks ago. The fashion show was absolutely incredible and a great way for me to show my family and friends I’m still me and I’m still enjoying life! It was also a way for me to say thank you after they supported me through my recent chemotherapy.

As a massive QVC fan I am thrilled that this is the fifteenth year this organisation has supported Breast Cancer Care. All of the charities vital services are free, across the UK for anyone facing this disease. Thanks to money raised through QVC customers and staff, Breast Cancer Care is able to provide invaluable support to women just like me.”

On Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day (October 13th), Breast Cancer Care is calling for healthcare professionals to make secondary breast cancer patients aware, at the point of diagnosis, how palliative care can help to manage their pain. Sign the petition:

1 Comment

  1. Alex Newall October 13, 2014 at 7:30 pm -  Reply

    Thank you for taking the time to write this post. I must admit I don’t know much about secondary breast cancer, but I will be looking it up when I sign the online petition. Your bravery and honesty are a sharp poke in the ribs for everyone to remember what’s really important. Best wishes to you and your family.

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