‘Life is really good now...’ - Guernsey Press article

19/04/2013

YVONNE ELLIOTT is a lively, active 60-year-old who relishes looking after her young grandsons and spending time with friends and family. Her energy belies the fact that she had a mastectomy six years ago, later deciding to go through the major surgical steps involved in reconstruction. Although she has recently been recovering from an unrelated serious condition, Yvonne remains full of positivity. She will be selling badges during the Pink Ladies Sunset Walk on Saturday 22 June as her way of helping a ‘brilliant’ organisation to raise funds for the brand new breast unit at the PEH.

Yvonne’s life has taken a different direction since her diagnosis and she feels that is an entirely good thing.

‘I was working at Deutsche Bank, had been there for years and was also doing all of the other things you get on with as part of a busy life,’ she explained. ‘I went for my routine mammogram and was recalled.’

She was not overly concerned at that point, having read the leaflet given out at the appointment that reassures women undergoing the examination that irregularities are not necessarily anything to worry about.

‘I had a biopsy and ultrasound and had to wait a week for the results. By then I was concerned. In fact, I think that wait was the worst time of all.’
The results confirmed that Yvonne had cancer. ‘There were two lumps and a couple of areas they were concerned about. Everything moved very quickly after that,’ she recalled.

Yvonne is full of praise for the way she was treated and the speed at which the specialists reacted. ‘I had a mastectomy and was told that the tumours were so deep I would never have felt them as part of self-examination. By the time they were obvious to me they would almost certainly have spread through my system, so I’m hugely grateful that the mammo picked up the problem and that my operation was done really quickly.’

She was offered immediate reconstruction at the time of the original surgery, but decided to wait. ‘I wanted everything to settle and to see how I felt before undergoing anything else,’ she explained.

Her delayed tram flap reconstruction was carried out in Winchester and involved several processes and visits. ‘They used tissue from my tummy to create the new area – it’s very clever stuff,’ she smiled, as we sat in her sunny Capelles home.

The physical side of her situation was ‘something I just got on with’, but Yvonne struggled with her cancer diagnosis. ‘I became very depressed for quite a while,’ she admitted. With the support of her family, she decided to give up work.

‘My GP was a bit concerned about that at the time because it was a reason for me to get up and do something each day, but in my heart I knew that I wanted to change the way that I was living. I’m sure that anyone facing such a serious illness must consider what life is all about – I certainly did.’

Her strong faith helped and she slowly emerged from the depression.
‘I go to Shiloh at Landes du Marche and knowing that people were praying for me really helped me to manage. The support I had was amazing.’

Her whole outlook on life has changed. ‘I suppose, really, it’s all about recognising your mortality.’

Yvonne adores her grandchildren, who range in age from five to 17, and it was the arrival of Toby five years ago that really helped her find her feet again.
‘I used to go every day and take him for a walk just after he was born,’ she explained. ‘It helped my daughter, Kirstie, and definitely boosted me.’
That activity led to more time with Toby, including taking him to Mums and Tots, and Yvonne then felt able to join social groups such as her church Bible study meeting.

‘Life is really good now – apart from a health problem at the moment – and I am enjoying all of the things I’m involved in.’

One extra ‘positive’ is that Yvonne started knitting while she was undergoing treatment and recovering. Her delicate creations are much appreciated by the PEH premature baby unit and she also supplies Winchester Hospital with blankets and hats for theirs. ‘I needed something that I could do when I couldn’t concentrate on anything else and had done some knitting years ago.
‘I can’t just sit and watch television, but am really happy to be making something useful.’

Having recently moved into a joint property with her daughter and family, Yvonne has also been landscaping the garden, looking after her grandchildren and generally enjoying a busy life.

She wants as many people as possible to support the Sunset Walk.
‘It will make a huge difference to women to have all of the treatment areas and diagnostic equipment in the new block and also to be able to see specialists in the same place,’ she concluded.

Article and photograph courtesy of the Guernsey Press & Star


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