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Just keep checking, says breast cancer survivor
8:00am Tuesday 1st October 2013 in News
Jo Harris believes she is still here today because she acted quickly after finding a lump in her right breast.
And now, after finishing treatment for breast cancer earlier this year, the 45-year-old is urging women across the town to check themselves regularly.
The mum-of-three, who lives in the Lawns, is supporting National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which starts today.
“Check yourself when you are in the shower and if you find anything go to the doctor straight away. I’m still here to tell my story because I did,” she said.
“So many people think it will go away but it won’t. The sooner you get seen the better your outcome is.
“There are so many things they can do now. Although treatment was awful you can get through it.”
Jo found a lump in her breast in June 2012.
“I started panicking straight away. I was devastated and just expected the worst. I just thought ‘oh my god, it’s cancer. I don’t want to die, what about the children?’,” said Jo.
She saw her doctor the next day and was referred to the Breast Centre at Great Western Hospital.
She had a mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy, and got her results a week later. She had day surgery in July 2012 to have the lump and 11 lymphnodes removed.
She then started six rounds of chemotherapy in September and finished in January.
“The second lot of chemo was the hardest. That’s when I lost my hair. I had long hair before I was diagnosed but had it cut just before I started chemotherapy,” she said.
“Without a doubt losing my hair was the worst part. It’s the one thing that defines you as a woman.”
Jo wore a wig, a hat or a scarf after losing her hair.
She had radiotherapy at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford from February to March and said she found the travelling hard.
“It was no good using the hospital transport because I have got children and couldn’t be gone all day,” she said.
“The first week I drove myself and then family and friends had a rota to take me.”
Jo started anti-oestrogen drug tamoxifen in February and will be on it for the next 10 years. She will also have a mammogram every year to monitor her progress.
“I can’t really quite believe that I went through it all. It makes you look at life differently,” she said.
“If I want to do something now, if I can do it then I will. Life is too short.”
Jo is marrying her fiance Wayne Read at Swindon Register Office on Friday.
“It will probably be very emotional but exciting as well. It is the start of a new year. I will forget about the old year,” she said.
“It has been really hard. You feel out of control yourself but your friends and family feel even more out of control because it’s me going through it. There are certain things I can control but your family can’t.
“Now we can enjoy ourselves and try to put the last year behind us.”
Jo thanked GWH, the Churchill Hospital and her friends and family for their support. She also thanked the Younger Breast Cancer Network, who can be found by searching for them on Facebook.
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