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Anne Jones

Like many people Anne Jones thought cancer was something that happened to older generations, not healthy, active women in the prime of life. When a red swelling developed in her breast at the age of 47, Anne put it down to stress but after a mammogram, ultrasound scan, and two biopsies, she was diagnosed with cancer.

The 50-year-old careers advisor and mum of three from Kerry, near Newtown, is now volunteering to work alongside our health engagement team on our LiveLife Cancer Awareness Service – helping others out and about in the community to recognise the signs of cancer and see their GPs as soon as possible.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2018 aged 47, and you immediately go into shock mode. I had always checked myself and been very breast aware but at 47 I thought incorrectly that it happened to older ladies. When I started treatment, I was amazed at the number of young people waiting for treatment.

I developed a visible red area on my breast and rang the GP to say I wanted antibiotics. I just put it down to stress because it had happened a few times before. My Dad had recently been admitted to intensive care a few days before I noticed something unusual.

I’d had mammograms and antibiotics previously, but this time the GP called me back and when I went to see him he sent me to the consultant. I thought it was just an infected cyst.

Between Christmas and the New Year I had a CT Scan to see if it had spread, it was very intense. I had two lumpectomies at Telford in January and February, and then chemo at the Lingen Davies Cancer Centre, six rounds, once every three weeks, which ran to July 2019. I had 20 radiotherapy sessions – daily from August 2019 through into September.”

The gruelling treatment schedule included travel of an hour distance to Shrewsbury from her home in Newcastle on Clun – daily. Anne says she couldn’t have done it without the help of her husband Paul, friends and family, and doing whatever it took to maintain a positive mindset.

“I’m very, very lucky that my husband and children are very supportive. They gave me a purpose; I got out of bed for them every day. My children were at sixth form and school, I had a purpose and I’m very grateful for that.

Small achievements meant a lot to me. I had to have a structure and purpose to my days. It kept me going, a positive mindset was really important. I thought ‘I can do this’. There are days when you can’t do anything and days when you can go out for a walk.

As a family we had been shielding and using antibacterial gel for the year before COVID started! My second daughter was going through her GCSEs and I had to keep strong and well for her, just keep going and stay healthy, that was my focus.

Travelling every day for treatment was hard but I am so fortunate, I never drove once. We had a great network of people to help. I was very lucky, and enormously grateful to everyone. I consider myself blessed to have an amazing support network who took me to treatment, dropped off meals and cakes, fed my husband and children, brought my children home from after school revision, drank tea with me, and phoned and messaged on a regular basis.”

Inevitably Covid has meant people have to go through their treatment at the Lingen Davies Cancer Centre on their own – relatives and friends are not allowed in the building in order to protect the vulnerable patients.

Anne said she found the experience mind-blowing and heartening at the same time.

“There’s a board in the waiting area displaying the number of people coming through the doors and it just blew my mind. I had heard of the LDCC and had been to charity events where people spoke about how their life had been affected. I was blown away by how busy it was and the sheer volume of people needing help and care, geographically it’s a very large patch.

I was also just amazed with how young people can be when they get this. I consider myself lucky, I had already had three good healthy children but I met someone who hadn’t yet had a family and she was going through a life-altering thing and worrying about the impact on her fertility. Getting to know people going through the same thing was a real eye-opener for me.”

As well as physical support from friends and family Anne also turned to groups like the Brecon Trust in Llandrindod who helped her manage emotionally. Reading and listening to inspirational material from other cancer survivors also gave her the impetus to keep going.

I thought it was a good idea to get emotional support somewhere I wasn’t coming for treatment, so I contacted the Bracken Trust in Llandrindod which was very helpful. I have had fantastic support from an array of organisations, and I am very grateful.

Just after I was diagnosed my husband bought a paper and there was a review of the Victoria Derbyshire book Dear Cancer, I read that and listened to podcasts by Liz O’Riordan who had breast cancer. This was my real inspiration to keep going. She had a young family too. It’s almost a taboo, nobody talks about it. People don’t talk about the treatment and what you go through!

Macmillan have said everyone should read Victoria Derbyshire’s book, it’s such an honest portrayal. Cancer realigns how you see the world; you learn not to sweat the small stuff. What’s important to us are our family and friends. Breast Cancer Now podcasts were also a really valuable source.

I remember getting a card from a friend of my sister who had breast cancer, I had never met her but she sent me a card saying ‘you’re stronger than you feel, smarter than you think and you’re braver than you believe’ that really helped me.”

Anne’s treatment ended in September 2019, and she had a phased return to work during which time tiredness and fatigue played a large part in her day. Regaining fitness was a key part of Anne’s focus and she started doing the ParkRun in Newtown when she could.

“I was exhausted, I had to go to bed at 8 O’clock, you just forget how big the impact of cancer is, keeping fit and doing exercise really helped with that. I read a lot, I liked having all the information, and stats show that by doing exercise it can help prevent reoccurrence of cancer by up to 50 percent. Going through treatment is really tiring, keeping moving was important to me, and now I know the more you can do the more energy you have.”

Anne is now on hormone therapy for the next five years and must take daily tablets, and a monthly injection, all of which is managed by her GP. Her motto to not let cancer rule her life is spurring her on to help other people be more aware about spotting the signs of cancer and dealing with it early.

“Looking ahead I’m feeling apprehensive and anxious about my upcoming mammogram , I can’t let it control me. I can’t spend the rest of my life waiting for cancer to come back. You can’t spend your life thinking what if.

I worked as a careers advisor so I have helped other people, I want to keep doing that.  I shared social posts about breast cancer. I just wanted to get people to think about checking themselves more.

I’m quite passionate about giving back. During my time off work, I kept busy reading. I needed to know everything, the what, when and why of cancer. I would like to use my experiences to help others. Stats show that 1 in 2 of us will get cancer, you’re incredibly lucky if it doesn’t have an impact on you.

Life’s short and it can all change on the roll of a dice. We think we’re invincible, but we’re not.”

A tractor run was organised by Anne’s friends last summer which raised £2,700 for Lingen Davies – a cause that has become very important to Anne and her family.

For more information on spotting the signs of cancer, where to turn for help and support, and our LiveLife Cancer Awareness work visit our info hub www.lingendavies.co.uk/cancerhub

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