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Cancer checks saved my life, says teacher
BREAST cancer patient Vanessa Denman is urging women to regularly check for signs of the disease after she was told she can expect to lead a naturally long life because of her own attention to detail.
The 47-year-old English teacher and charity worker, of Crawford Close, Freshbrook, was diagnosed with breast cancer on May 30, less than one week after discovering she had a lump.
On June 11 Vanessa had a mammogram and ultrasound on her breasts that confirmed the worst, and she began her preparations for surgery to remove the tumour, which was growing at a rapid pace.
The tumour was removed during a successful surgery on July 19, less than two months after she first reported the lump to her doctor.
The teacher and charity worker’s body was then allowed a period of rest before her tri-weekly cycle of chemotherapy began on September 18, which was designed to kill off the pre-cancerous cells that existed in clusters across both breasts.
On Wednesday of last week, Vanessa left the Great Western Hospital and the Osprey Unit following her fourth session of chemotherapy and has been told by medical staff she is responding well – despite a massive scare after her first course of chemo.
Vanessa was close to death, she said, after her first course of chemo. Her immune system was so badly damaged she caught an infection.
She was taken to intensive care at the GWH and they too told her she was at death’s door, had she not been treated at that time.
The former New College teacher takes heart from the latest news from medical professionals she has as good a chance as any of a long and healthy life, despite her illness.
In February, Vanessa plans to have a double mastectomy.
She wishes to go ahead with the operation to give herself the best chance of defeating cancer for good.
Giving herself the best chance at everything in the rest of her life is at the root of her decisions up to now and why she is pleading with others to remain wary of any symptoms.
“My sister had breast cancer six years ago and it was pretty scary. She was diagnosed with it at the stage before the end [her death] and that is what drove me to keep on top of my own checks,” said Vanessa.
“I caught it [the tumour] immediately, but because of my age and family genetics the tumour had more than doubled between my ultrasound and the surgery date [five weeks]. It went from 19 to 39 millimetres.
“I have chemotherapy for one day every three weeks. I live my life by that. My life has become three-weekly cycles.
“I’ve got a great faith. I’m not religious, but I do have a lot of faith. I want to make a difference and encourage other people.
“People should not be frightened to do your checks, do them properly and regularly. They will save your life,” she said. “You must not bury your head in the sand.”