Marys Story


Mary Robertshaw was 36 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The Year 6 teacher at Notre Dame Primary School found a lump in her breast at the end of June 2009. Within two weeks of a doctors appointment she had been diagnosed with cancer.

Mary, now 38, is married to Tom and has three children, George, 11, Isabelle, 8, and Joe, 6.

I had recently lost some weight and was putting on some moisturiser when I felt quite a big, squidgy lump. When I look back I cant believe I missed it.

Mary said while she wasnt particularly worried about it, she thought sheshould get it checked out.

I was very blas about it. There was no history of it in the family, I had breast-fed my children, I had done all the right things and I was 36.

She said the day she was diagnosed, on 10 July, changed all of their lives forever.

Everything started spinning. I was sat in this room and it was like a baddream but I wouldnt wake up.

The consultant started talking about my life expectancy and my first thought was the children, the youngest was only four, said Mary.

She said one minute she had been doing the school run and going to swimming lessons and the next she was talking about how long she might have to live.
I wouldnt want anyone to go through that, she said.

Mary didnt know anyone who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and decided to contact the Pink Ladies.

I wanted to talk to someone who had been through it.

I spoke to Doreen and she was so calm and sensible. She reassured me and itbrought me back from total panic and a meltdown.

The cancer was aggressive and fast-growing. Mary had a partial mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, followed by a course of chemotherapy and, later that year, three weeks of radiotherapy in Southampton Hospital.

She was walking her dog on Ladies Bay, just before her second chemotherapy session, when her long, straight hair began to fall out.
I ran my hand through my hair and a huge chunk came out. After thinking about the children, losing my hair was the most upsetting thing, but you develop a really weird sense of humour to get you through it.
I remember texting my sister and telling her that my hair was blowing off on the beach, she said.

Over a bottle of wine one Friday night, her friend shaved the rest of her hair off.  Joe and Isabelle didnt really understand but George was a bit older and Jade Goody had died a few months before. I explained it was a different type of illness and we all just got used to it.

While most mums were panicking about Christmas shopping, Mary was undergoing an intensive 21-day course of radiotherapy in Southampton, which finished on 23 December.

Mary went back to work in February.

She said meeting up with the Pink Ladies was a huge help and comfort during treatment.

They made me realise I could make it through. They know what women need.
And helping others makes something good out of something horrible, she said.

GEP Article by Zoe Ash 28th April 2011

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