Willow blog

Emma’s Special Day story

June 10, 2016

Emma shares her Special Day story and what motivated her to become a Willow Warrior last year: 

“Hi I’m Emma, I’m 41, married with two children aged 15 and 10. Just over five years ago I found a lump in my breast. I was only 35 years old and I didn’t think much of it. Why would I? I was young, physically fit, never smoked, no family history and definitely not overweight… I had nothing to fear. How wrong I was.

Laying in bed one morning I said to my boyfriend (now husband): ‘it’s getting bigger’. A locum doctor confirmed what I thought, that it was cyclical and not to worry. So I didn’t. Six weeks later and my lump was not only still there but DEFINITELY getting bigger. My doctor fast-tracked me to the breast clinic but told me not to worry as it was just a precaution. The following week I had a mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy but my nurse reassured me that there was nothing to worry about. So I didn’t.

I carried on with daily life, including starting a new job. I was a bit nervous in my first week, mainly because I had to ask my new employer if I could have Friday off as I needed go to the hospital for my test results. At the time I thought it was unreasonable not to give me my results over the phone, because surely they were going to tell me everything was fine? So, with my mind on my new job, I trotted off to the breast clinic again.

I walked into a room, greeted by the surgeon and my nurse, to be told that I had breast cancer. ‘Oh’ was my response. The surgeon carried on talking about ‘stuff’ and all I could think about was getting back to work. Then it finally sunk in…

How was I going to tell my children I had cancer? 

Within three days, I had a lumpectomy and more lymph nodes removed for further testing. The next step was waiting for the results from the lab to determine the type of cancer and if I’d need chemotherapy. Chemo was my biggest fear… It sounds silly but I was very fashion conscious and didn’t want to lose my hair! It wasn’t plain sailing. At my first infusion I went into hypersensitive shock, which was so scary I thought I was going to die right then! I also developed a blood clot in my neck. At the time I remember thinking ‘I feel fine with cancer, I think the treatment might kill me before the cancer does!’ Honestly, I found chemo horrific and by the end I was fit for nothing. It really took its toll on me, my husband and most of all my children. The feeling of guilt was crippling.

Then came the day when my nurse suggested I apply for a Willow Special Day. I had never heard of the charity before and it really couldn’t have come at a better time. Life was tough for all of us. The four of us were given a break away to Centre Parcs for the weekend. Having finished chemo, and after a second operation, it was a welcome break before starting radiotherapy. Willow gave my family the special time together that we had all longed for and missed.

Cancer took a lot away from us but Willow gave so much back!

Fast forward a few years, after a long journey with cancer, I was determined to get back to my former fitness levels. It was hard but I signed up to the Willow Warrior to give me something to focus on. Raising money for a fantastic charity which helps so many people like me really kept me motivated. I just wanted to give back. As a family we still talk so fondly of the memories of our Special Day and how it allowed us to finally spend quality time together.

Willow Warrior was so much fun. My friends and I still giggle about it, especially on the giant water slide. We laughed so hard going down it together holding onto each other’s ankles! My one piece of advice is don’t hoover the inside of your car just before you do it and take lots of bin bags to sit on for your journey home. Enjoy it, get muddy and get fundraising to make someone else’s day special.”

You can join us at Willow Warrior next year or find out more about taking on a challenge for Willow