Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Fee shares her story.

Around five years ago, Fee Sharples was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and to this day, she hasn’t experienced any symptoms. Recently, Fee discovered one of our Big C Centres and now feels extremely reassured by all the services available to her, should she ever require support in the future. This is her story…

I went from a ‘normal life’ to stage four in two weeks, and that was difficult. I have always been an incredibly well person, with a strong immune system. Having not experienced any symptoms, it was understandably a shock for everyone.

Initially, Fee detected a lump in her breast but suspected it was simply a hormonal occurrence. After a medical assessment, her test results showed that it was indeed just a hormonal response. However, her mammogram also detected an abnormality inside her other breast. If it wasn’t for this scan, the doctors wouldn’t have discovered her breast cancer.

Fee said: “I went from a ‘normal life’ to stage four in two weeks, and that was difficult. I have always been an incredibly well person, with a strong immune system. Having not experienced any symptoms, it was understandably a shock for everyone.”

Fee was referred to a surgeon and her biopsy results revealed that the cancer had spread to her lymph glands. The scans also showed that there was cancer in her bones and omentum (found within the abdomen).

Since her diagnosis five years ago, Fee hasn’t experienced a single symptom – not even side effects from the medication. She receives intravenous bio-phosphonate to support her bone strength and takes a daily hormone therapy medication, which has kept the cancer stable for the past five years.

Since her initial diagnosis, her cancer markers have risen every year and her medication changed earlier this year. She is also about to take part in a promising trial with Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

Fee is an incredibly positive person, which has stood her in good stead: “Strange as it sounds, I go days forgetting I have cancer. I think it’s because I am a very positive person. If you’re lucky enough to be like that, it will do a huge amount for you.

“I have amazing support from my two wonderful grown-up children and husband. I’ve also been very lucky to have different friends join me at the hospital for my monthly intravenous treatment. I used to try to protect my family, and friends, from the situation but that made them cross. So we talk about it now. In fact, we talk a lot, we’re open and honest and that’s really helped us all. It makes it easier for other people too.”

Recently, Fee discovered our Big C Centre at the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital. She walked into the centre for a look around and met with one of our breast cancer specialist nurses.

Fee said: “Having been a nurse myself, when I met Sam, I was delighted to find that Big C not only offers a non-clinical and welcoming environment but that there are also specialist nurses on hand too. It was good to sit down with her, especially in that lovely environment. They offer another level of professionalism; I was mightily impressed.”

Due to the lack of symptoms, Fee hasn’t required much support over the last few years. However, since her visit, Fee has made a dietitian appointment at Big C seeking advice on the healthiest food choices to keep her cancer at bay, while managing a separate illness, microscopic colitis.

She said: “I have been extremely lucky during my cancer diagnosis but what felt particularly reassuring was to know Big C was there if and when I need any support.

“I plan to join Big C’s mindfulness classes soon and it was fantastic to hear there are complimentary massages available to me and a loved one, if we ever need them in the future. I will definitely use Big C’s facilities; it’s also just so nice to know there is someone on the end of the phone.”

She added: “None of us thought I’d still be here and I’m going to keep a positive mindset that my health continues to do well. I’m not in denial, I just live every day and make the most of every day.”