‘You suddenly realise that you have to just go out there and enjoy life’

03/04/2017

Jayne Le Cras had just celebrated her 50th birthday when she went for a routine mammogram. The news that she had breast cancer devastated her, but 10 years on she talks to Jill Chadwick about how that diagnosis changed her life forever...

TO SAY that Jayne Le Cras has never suffered fools is a bit of an understatement and having undergone a long tough treatment regime, these days she feels that even more keenly.


‘I have learned, probably the hardest way, that life is precious and your friends and family are everything to you. Spending time with them and enjoying life is what you must do. Every single day I make a point of seeing someone I want to spend time with, and I enjoy doing so and I suffer fools even less than before.’


Jayne has always been a strong character, forthright yet kind, and passionate about life. She was the operations director of the GSPCA when her cancer was diagnosed in July 2006 after she took up an invitation to have a routine mammogram.


‘I then went off to Italy for a week and the day I got back I was opening my mail and found one asking me to come back for a second appointment. I had missed that one because I was away and there was another letter saying that as a matter of urgency, I had to get back in touch with the unit.


‘I did so the next day and within a matter of hours another mammography exam and an ultrasound confirmed that there was a mass in one of my breasts.’


Jayne explains that she did not feel unwell and could not feel any lump.


‘I saw the surgeon, Jonathon Rice, that same day and I had a biopsy. I admit I was terrified. They told me I would get the results in about four days.’


She was subsequently given the news that the mass was cancerous and it was suggested that she have a mastectomy that following week.


‘For me the hardest thing is that you are given the news by the team on a Friday and over that weekend you go away with nobody to talk to or discuss your options. I found that very hard. I telephoned a friend that night and she gave me two names of people she thought may help me.


I called them both on the Friday night and left messages and the next day one of them, Gillian Tidd, called me back straight away and said: ’I will be with you in half an hour.’


Jayne says that Gill turned out to be her rock.


‘I am so grateful to her, she was phenomenal. She sat with me most of that morning  she showed me her scars and told me what had happened to her then made me a promise that a year on she and I would be drinking  a glass of champagne and having a massive party.’

 

Over the next couple of days Jayne decided to go to the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, a centre of excellence for cancer care, for a second opinion.


‘A friend’s daughter had worked there and had written her dissertation on breast cancer.  She was able to advise me on who I should talk to and a few days later I was at the Royal Marsden with all my scans and documents. Doctors in Guernsey may see 50 women a year while at the Marsden they are seeing 50 women a week.’


It was suggested that Jayne should undergo a sentinel node biopsy (which was not done locally at that time) before undergoing any further procedure.


This involves injecting radioactive dye into the nipple to determine if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and if so how many have been infected.


Jayne was told her nodes were affected so she had to have all those under her right armpit removed.


In September she went on to have chemotherapy. ‘My oncologist at the Royal Marsden, Professor Ian Smith a leading cancer specialist, devised my chemotherapy plan, but I had it administered in Guernsey. In January I went back to the Marsden for the radiotherapy. I didn’t want to have it done in Southampton as we had a friend, Derek Shepherd who lives in Putney who kindly allowed us to stay there with him. We were back home in March 2007.’


She admits that the chemo was hard. ‘It is a tough regime but you owe it to yourself and those you love to give yourself the best possible chance to survive. I had a chemo buddy, and I have been one for others – and would do so again. You do need to go through this with someone. You feel you have a death sentence over your head and that you are the only person in the world feeling that way, so you have to be able to talk to someone who has come through it.


‘I was on a new experimental two-week plan. Usually you have a three-week programme where you have the chemo, feel awful for week two then recover in week three only to go back for more treatment. The Royal Marsden trialled a two-week plan where basically you never get that week of feeling better. You feel terrible throughout, but instead of the treatment taking six months, mine was completed in about four-and-a-half months.


‘I won’t lie, it felt like hell on earth. Losing my hair was hard and I also had problems with my eyes completely drying out, a side-effect my oncologist had not seen before. I also suffered premature ageing of the skin, which is awful, but on the plus side I lost all my body hair and it has never grown back.’


Jayne says Professor Smith shared many thoughts about the disease and what he believes can trigger it – like the stress of a relationship break-up or a bereavement – as he feels people can stop looking after themselves, stop eating and resting, which he feels can give the cancer cells the fodder they need.


True to character, Jayne wanted to know what she was dealing with and what her prognosis was.


‘I asked my oncologist how long he thought my cancer had been there and he said because of its size he believed it had been there for a decade. If I had not had a mammogram he doubted I would have made it to 60 and my odds of survival also increased due to the surgery to remove the nodes, the chemotherapy and the radiotherapy.


‘Sadly breast cancer runs in my family and I have just lost a cousin who was in remission from breast cancer but she died from a primary stomach cancer. Another cousin is in remission and my aunt many years ago also died from breast cancer.’


She says that the day she came home at the end of her treatment regime was very hard.


‘It was a bit like being put in a rowing boat and pushed out into the middle of the sea with no oars. You have been surrounded by doctors and nurses and treatment regimes and suddenly you are on your own. It didn’t help that my husband was away on business, but my brother and a very dear friend of mine welcomed me home with balloons, wine and chocolate, it was hard and people tell me that was how they felt too.’


Jayne’s best ‘boy mate’ John Randall was about to hit 50 while Jayne was still in the throes of her chemotherapy and radiotherapy and he decided that they would throw a massive joint celebration when it was all over – and they did one year on from the date of her diagnosis.


‘It has always been about feeling positive and I kept remembering about how fantastic I felt before my diagnosis.


‘For me breast cancer is done and dusted and it is a period of my life that is gone. It did make me feel very vulnerable, like a slap in the face, and you do suddenly realise that you have to just go out there and enjoy life – and spend time with the people you love.


‘My experience has made me realise how important my friends and family are to me and I have made some fantastic friends along the way.’

 

Article and picture of Jayne Le Cras courtesy of the Guernsey Press & Star



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