Half the battle is to stay positive... - Guernsey Press article


Two of the women supporting the Pink Ladies Sunset Walk on 22 June have a particular, and poignant, reason for getting involved and trying to ensure that as much as possible is raised. Maaike Kreckeler and Chrissie Golding talk to Kay Leslie about their experiences...

THE bond of friendship between Maaike Kreckeler and Chrissie Golding is clear to see but, beyond the jokes and fun, the pair have also supported one another through the shock and pain of breast cancer.

They are colleagues at NatWest Bank so spend each weekday working together, as well as being friends beyond that. Recently, though, jokes about being unhealthy by tucking into the regular supply of home-made cakes at work were replaced with a far more serious worry as each was diagnosed with cancer.

Chrissie and Maaike are now clear of the disease and emphasise how good life feels. They will be supporting the Pink Ladies Sunset Walk as their way of saying thanks to this supportive group.

We thought carefully about the most effective way that we can support the event and decided that opening the bank to deal with entry fees and processing those was the way we can help most, said Maaike.

The bubbly Dutch branch manager, whom Chrissie is happy to acknowledge as the boss, endured the longest ordeal with breast cancer. She exudes health and vitality and described the shock of the diagnosis as a bombshell because she had always been well and active.

I was diagnosed on 30 April 2010, which I remember because Im Dutch and it was the Queens birthday there. Also, we had a summer ball to go to and had been planning all sorts of things for that. Two weeks earlier, I had found a lump in my left breast and it was large. It must have appeared quite quickly because I had always checked myself and never found anything strange.

Maaike was referred to specialist Stuart Scott, who immediately arranged an ultrasound, biopsy and mammogram on the same day. I realised then that it must be really quite serious for everything to be done so quickly. That was all on the Tuesday and three days later, I was told that it was cancer and a particularly aggressive form.

She recalls the worry and the sleeplessness of the next 10 days while she waited for the operation and the timeframe for chemotherapy. At that point, she wasnt sure whether she was due to have a lumpectomy or full mastectomy.

Her first chemo session was on 26 August, with the operation soon after that. She went to Southampton for 15 sessions of radiotherapy and the treatment finished just before Christmas.

It was really difficult. The radiotherapy was OK, but the chemo made me really poorly. Both women still have the radiotherapy tattoos, which are used to ensure the treatments accuracy.

Maaike found the first two chemo sessions did not affect her too badly, but after that it was a struggle. My husband was brilliant. I had long hair but I had it cut short before the chemo because we knew it was going to fall out. Ive kept it short now because I like it that way, so that was one good thing, she said, showing the optimism that kept her going.

Chrissie was supportive throughout and fully aware of all that her friend was going through. I feel really fine now in fact, I would say that I have never felt better. Looking back, maybe there were some warning signs: extreme tiredness and not feeling quite right, but one of the things that the nursing staff told me was not to be hard on myself because there was no real way of knowing.

Maaike believes half the battle is to stay positive. She has a check-up every six months and wants to publicise her situation as part of the Pink Ladies fundraising to reassure women how treatable the disease is.

Chrissie feels the same and, although neither of the friends has felt the need to use the Pink Ladies for emotional support, they both enjoy being involved with a group that can provide help if required. They are also a great bunch of people, said Chrissie.

She was diagnosed recently after a routine mammogram for her 50th birthday identified a problem. I was called back but wasnt particularly worried at that point, because you hear so often that even when something shows up it is probably benign.

Unfortunately for Chrissie, the ultrasound and biopsy made clear that she did have cancer and things moved quickly from that point. It was brilliant the way I was treated and the speed at which I received medical help. Mr Scott said immediately that the lump had to be removed and within two weeks I had a lumpectomy. I didnt need chemo, but was sent for radiotherapy.

Chrissie had watched her friend go through so much that she was fully aware of what the treatment could do and was hugely relieved not to need chemo.
She stayed in hospital overnight after the lumpectomy but had to go back a week later because, after tests, it was decided to remove more of the breast. That was a really tough time. Going through surgery again was really upsetting in fact, it was probably the worst bit. Psychologically, I thought I had put that bit behind me and then had to do it again. I know beyond doubt it was for the best, but it was a real struggle.

Her 26-year-old daughter Steff helped her through, together with her partner, but Steff found watching her mum go through the second round of surgery a traumatic and upsetting time. Further tests showed that the cancer was non-invasive and non-life threatening, so the family, including Chrissies son Dan, were able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Chrissie waited a short time for radiotherapy and went to Southampton. That was OK. Having been fairly together through the experience, she was taken aback to feel more emotional and upset after the whole process. I think you just get on with it at the time and deal with each stage, but afterwards, when you have more time, it was difficult for me to deal with the emotional side of what had happened. I was all over the place for a while, said Chrissie.

She researched the illness and spoke to women who had been through it and now feels totally fine about her situation. There is not much that I worry about these days. Life is great and it puts into perspective all the positives.

She is delighted that her son is doing a charity bike ride in London in August for the Pink Ladies. Its great that he chose to support something which is so important to me.

Maaike and Chrissie are hoping for a huge turnout locally for the Sunset Walk. The new unit is going to make things so much easier for women going through what we have had. To put all of the treatment and diagnosis areas in one spot will really help, Chrissie explained.

Article courtesy of the Guernsey Press & Star, picture by Steve Sarre

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