A MOTHER diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago is urging islanders to support the Sunset Coastal Walk. Dawn Wheeler was 44 and in Mauritius celebrating her silver wedding anniversary when she found a lump in her breast.

Dawn, who works for her family business, A. Mahy Ltd, visited the doctor about three weeks later. She had hoped the small but painful lump was a cyst, as she did not think cancerous lumps were painful.

But a mammogram followed by a biopsy confirmed it was cancer.

‘At first I was so shocked – I had always been healthy, never smoked, exercised regularly and nobody in my family has had it,’ she said.

Dawn had an operation to remove the lump a week later. She said she was determined to beat it. ‘I started my chemotherapy on 6 July – the day before the 2005 bombings in London. That night I was very ill and was feeling sorry for myself, saying that I was never having chemo again.

‘The following morning I switched on the television and saw all the devastation in London.

‘That in some ways was a turning point for me – seeing all that happen made me say to myself, “get a grip and get on with it”.’

After six weeks of chemotherapy, she lost her hair, eyelashes and eyebrows. Her daughter Jodi, who is now 26, had helped her search for wigs and bandannas on the internet.

Her son Ross, who is now 22, husband Keith and mum and dad Liz and Tony Mahy were also very supportive.

‘My family were brilliant. We have always had a sense of humour as a family and that certainly didn’t stop just because I was having treatment – it was definitely our way of dealing with it,’ Dawn said.

‘I think keeping everything as normal as possible really helped me get through it all and helped them, too.’

Dawn said one of the toughest times for her was when she had to go to Southampton for five weeks of radiotherapy.

After six-monthly check-ups for five years following the treatment, she now has to have yearly mammograms for the next five years.

‘It has been quite a journey but once you get through it, it makes you a much stronger person. I now live life to the full,’ she said.

Dawn has just celebrated her 50th birthday, marked by a surprise holiday in Tenerife.

Now a member of the Pink Ladies, she is hoping to inspire and help other breast-cancer sufferers by sharing her experiences and taking part in the coastal walk.

‘It is quite emotional and the finish is really lovely in Town.

‘You can do it in your own time and it’s not a race.’

Dawn Wheeler was 44 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now 50, she says surviving the illness has made her a stronger person.     (1146702)

GEP Article by Jess Stevenson 16/06/2011

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