Sarah’s Special Day story

Before my diagnosis aged 28 I was a very active person. My partner Fergal and I enjoy lots of outdoor activities and often went rock climbing and off-road driving. I was an Army Officer for six years, and was down at the gym three or four times a week. Fitness has always been a big part of my life.

When I found the lump in my breast, I wasn’t particularly worried – with no family history, breast cancer doesn’t happen to people my age does it? From the minute the doctor told me I had cancer, everything was a whirlwind of appointments, decisions and uncertainty, but I had something to focus on, a disease to beat. I had an operation to remove the cancer, followed by an aggressive regime of chemo and four weeks of daily radiotherapy.

My breast care nurse had put me forward to the Willow Foundation for a special day, and whilst I didn’t think too much about it at first, as my treatment went on I began to realise how good it would be to take the time to do something fun for a change – there hadn’t been all that much fun in our lives over the previous few months!

It was the first time since my diagnosis that I had felt like my old self again.

The trip really was so special for both of us. After months of worry and ghastly treatment it reminded us that there was so much more to us and to our lives than cancer. It was the first time since my diagnosis that I had felt normal, like my old self again. I was particularly grateful that the Willow Foundation doesn’t just focus on the person who is or has been unwell. The effect that serious illness has on a family and people around you is huge, and sometimes overlooked. The fact that Willow set out to be inclusive and make sure that everyone is involved makes such a difference.

While we were away I had a go at clay pigeon shooting, archery, off-road driving and finally quad biking. Now, it is hard to hide the fact you’ve been ill when you’ve got no hair, and everyone was ever so kind, but I think they couldn’t quite believe I’d want to be getting wet and dirty on a Quad bike! Much to Fergal’s amusement I even managed to fall off at one point. The lovely guy who was leading us was horrified to see me end up on the floor in a heap – he was so worried that I’d hurt myself, as I was rolling around on the ground creased up with laughter – I think he saw the funny side in the end! The day was rounded off with a walk in the grounds, the sun came out and it was just perfect.

At the end of my treatment it felt like I would never come close to being the person I was before breast cancer but a year to the day since I had the operation I ran the Bupa Great Yorkshire 10km and fundraised for Willow – a small thank you for an amazing day that made such a huge difference to both of us, and helped me get back on track towards normality.