meet up with… Jill, breast cancer survivor
For the second blog in our small series which tells the stories of those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, we caught up with Jill. Introduced to us by Prevent Breast Cancer – who were our charity of choice at the recent Victory at Villa Park football match – Jill was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019. From the outset she faced her situation and treatment with a positive mindset, and plenty of music. She took the time to detail her experience with us.
In your account you mention turning the music up in your car after your initial diagnosis. What part did music play in helping you cope during your illness?
“Music played a huge part – as it continues to do so. It makes me feel happy and upbeat. I used to turn the radio up and dance around the kitchen on a daily basis, as I have done all my life! It’s uplifting – anything that makes you feel good counts as medicine to me. It helped me block out what I was going through – music was my medicine.”
You also talk about your decision to have a mastectomy, why do you think it was such an easy choice for you to make?
“It was a simple choice because I didn’t want the risk of having the tumour not totally removed – the only way in my mind to be 100% sure that the cancer would be removed was to remove my breast. I was very lucky that the cancer hadn’t travelled to my lymph nodes. Having my breast removed didn’t make me feel any less of a woman – I was still me. This attitude probably stems from me not suffering from lack of body confidence – I’m a very confident person and my body doesn’t define who I am. I have a far from perfect body! But who does?! I’m alive, that’s all that matters.”
A positive approach seems to have been vital in helping you deal with breast cancer but how hard was it to maintain?
“I’m generally a positive person anyway – my cup is always half full. I found it very easy to remain positive as once my breast had been removed that was it as far as I was concerned. I was cancer free – what’s not to feel positive about?!! My whole approach to dealing with my breast cancer was mind over matter – remain positive and everything will be alright. Thankfully, it was.”
Chemotherapy is notorious for its side effects, a lot of which you avoided partly due to cutting out a lot of food and drink. Can you explain more about what you removed from your diet?
“I removed fatty foods and spicy foods, I cut out alcohol, sugar, salt, processed foods and anything acidic, so no oranges for example. I added more fibre into my diet and ate lots of ‘clean’ foods like fresh vegetables, and fruit, and lots of spinach! I reduced my red meat intake to the bear minimum and ate a lot of fish and white meat. Half the battle of coping with chemo is having a good immune system, so any foods that are going to help increase that I basically lived on!
“I also ate little and often as having a full stomach when you are on chemo isn’t a good idea as you will feel sick. I increased my water intake, too, so that I was always hydrated.
“All this information I found out from Google – I googled ‘the best way to deal with chemotherapy’ and all this popped up which I followed to the letter.”
What was the best piece of advice you received after your diagnosis?
“My consultant told me not to worry, that he’d look after me, there was unfortunately nothing I could have done to avoid getting breast cancer in his opinion, as I have never smoked, only drank alcohol on social occasions and wasn’t overweight. I live in the countryside so it can’t have been caused by environmental issues. I was unlucky. My cancer was caused – in his words – by the menopause, which I suffered with terribly for years, having such heavy periods that I had to be admitted to hospital to have iron intravenously on several occasions. Whether or not that was totally true or not I’ll never know.
“To be honest I would have valued some advice on how to continue looking after myself so as to avoid re-occurrence, but sadly I’ve never received any, so I’ve taken it upon myself to follow the same lifestyle (to an extent) that I did when I was on chemo. I’m four years clear next month – and counting!”
How would you describe Prevent Breast Cancer in three words?
“Prediction, pioneering, prevention.”
If you would like to find out more about Prevent Breast Cancer – including how to make a donation – you can visit their site here.