One Woman’s Fight Against Hereditary Breast Cancer
I’ve written many times here of my aversion to the battling terms the media like to use when it comes to cancer, especially when someone “loses their fight with cancer”. But today I am making an exception. I want to introduce you to someone who is the embodiment of the fighting spirit, someone who took on a battle with the medical establishment and won.
I’m Still Standing: My Fight Against Hereditary Breast Cancer is the story of Wendy Watson, founder of the Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline and the first woman in the UK to undergo an elective double mastectomy.
When Wendy was just 16, her mother died from breast cancer. After researching her family history she discovered a further nine relatives had died of the disease. Wendy had always been assured by her GP that breast cancer was NOT hereditary, but this family history was all the evidence she needed to question that. Although little was known about the genetic link to breast cancer at the time, Wendy was deeply concerned about her own risk of developing the disease.
I set about trying to find ways to protect myself from developing the disease, and finally came up with a solution that was absolutely the right thing for me: to have my breast tissue removed before cancer had chance to develop. At the time, this was unheard of. Everyone thought I was simply crazy. Now NICE Guidelines recognize this procedure as being a valid option for the 1 in 200 women who carry a high risk gene fault.
So at the age of 37, Wendy was the first woman in Britain to have a pre-emptive double mastectomy (thirteen years later, at 24, her daughter Becky made the same choice).
Wendy’s decision to have this operation was not without a struggle with the medical establishment and her experience led to her setting up the Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline in 1996, to help other women facing a similar choice.
The following year she successfully spearheaded a campaign against the patenting of two genes linked to breast cancer, all the time challenging the bureaucracy of many Primary Care Trusts in the UK and the European Parliament.
When Wendy won the Tesco Mum of the Year Award in 2011, the Helpline received a boost in recognition and has gone from strength to strength, supporting thousands through their difficult decisions when being faced with stark choices of living with risk or facing elective surgery.
I’m Still Standing, is Wendy’s account of her journey from childhood to the present day, written in her own down to earth, practical style. It is an inspiring story of one woman’s fight against the establishment, a story, filled with fortitude, humour and determination – much like the author.
I hope my book will help many more women to find the courage to face their future. My friends say this should be my theme tune – despite all the knockbacks I keep battling on.
At the end of the book, I had a greater understanding of the complexities of genetic cancer, and was filled with admiration for this remarkable woman. She renewed my faith in the power we all have as individuals to make a difference. To me she is the embodiment of Monday’s Motivational Quotation:
I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do.
I have two copies of I’m Still Standing to give away this week. Simply leave a comment below on any aspect of this review which has touched you.