Tina Knott is no stranger to cancer – she has lost nine members of her family to the devastating illness.
For two years she nursed her father who had cancer but a short time later she was treated by the same nurses who cared for her dad when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Tina, 47, of Ridge Street, Lancaster, said: “I was first diagnosed on Christmas Eve 2014. I was in a cast after an accident and I was having strip washes. so I was more thorough.
“There was a sore lump on the left breast but I assumed it was hormonal so kind of ignored it.
“Two or three weeks later I thought ‘I’m just going to check’ and the lump was a lot lot bigger.
“I went to see my GP and he fast tracked me to the breast unit. They found the lump had grown to 8cm and was very aggressive.
“I thought there was just one lump but there were actually two and there were floating cancer cells.
“The whole of the breast was full of cancer.
“They did five biopsies, my two elder girls went with me and it was pretty much a rollercoaster from then on.
“You hope that what they will tell you is a lower level scenario but for me it was Grade 5 which is the worst type.
“I had chemo first at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and the staff on the unit were absolutely amazing.
“I was being treated by the same staff who treated my dad, It was very bizarre. I’d gone from the carer to the patient.
“It messed with my head. I was so ill through the chemo, I was constantly being sick and lost my hair. I was on a very high and intense dose of chemo so the side effects are more extreme.
“I was booked in for surgery which took ten hours.
“My daughter sprayed my head pink to go down to theatre which my surgeon found it amusing.
“I had a mastectomy (removal of the breast) and reconstructive surgery where they took muscle from my back to rebuild my breast. I also had my lymph nodes removed.
“My recovery from the surgery was long. I had five chest drains and came home with two but I had a lot of problems.”
Soon after she was contacted by a friend Andrea from CancerCare who she had known for a lot of years.
She said: “Andrea said ‘we are here for you, please get in touch and utilise the services that are here.
“I was struggling emotionally. Into the summer I contacted CancerCare and I was offered hypnotherapy and relaxation.
“I could go every week where I could open up and be shown how to try and relax and wind down from the intensity of everything.
“I found that absolutely amazing, I learned relaxation techniques I would never have known.
There were happy, smiley faces to greet you and there was a friendly warm environment.
“I was offered transport if I needed it.
“Everything from start to finish was amazing.
“When my counselling finished I was offered massage but I was a bit sore.
“Once the surgery had settled down I was offered aromatherapy. I can’t praise the lady enough, she treated me with dignity, she was caring and mindful of tender areas.
“I had 12 sessions and I got appointments for a further six. It was the appointment I looked forward to each week.
“They were just brilliant, the same faces and the same people continued caring.
“I’ve joined a group called The Phoenix Group which was set up for people dealing with cancer or post cancer.
“We are all in the same thing or going through it. It’s a spin off from CancerCare set up by two people that work at CancerCare.
“With the chemotherapy you lose all your hair, eyebrows and eyelashes so you have to make yourself feel feminine.
“CancerCare did a pamper night where they showed you how to apply make-up to make yourself feel feminine.
“It’s nice to be around people who have been through the same thing as you. It’s just another element of CancerCare, they organise fun and interesting things but they are bringing people together that can lean on each other.
“It’s the emotional feeling of self worth, my body has changed and I’m a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, I have scars everywhere.
“CancerCare has been invaluable, they make you feel you worthwhile and you are treated with such dignity.”
Throughout her illness, Tina has been supported by her partner Chris Cherry and her daughters Amber Rutherford, 10, Jade Chapman, 25 and Jodie Rutherford, 19.
Tina said: “Chris and I have only been together a year but he has been with me every step of the way supporting me.
“My daughter Amber, who is 10, has done some fundraising off her own back. She donated her hair to The Little Princess Trust and she did a raffle which raised nearly £1300 and organised a Race for Life at her school Moorside, which raised just over £4k.
“This year she did the Starlight Walk for CancerCare.
“When Amber started fundraising, she was nine at the time and I think it was her coping mechanism. My two elder daughters came to my appointments and were sitting with me in close contact and giving me emotional support which my ten-year-old daughter couldn’t give.
“I’m very grateful for the support I’ve had.”
Even though Tina was faced with a serious illness, she still wanted to help others to check for signs of cancer.
She said: “I profiled every stage of my treatment on Facebook to make people aware. Three of my friends thanked me for being made aware of checking yourself because they wouldn’t have checked themselves. “Sadly one of my friend’s has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I tried to point out to people that as soon as you hear the word cancer you don’t have to run for the hills.
“I’ve lost nine members of my family to cancer. Positive attitude goes a long way, you can fight things better and I think that is what has got me through it and the positivity that CancerCare gives everybody is amazing.
“You have cancer and all of a sudden you see that cancer is prolific.
“ It touches the lives of so many people.
“From when my dad had cancer to my cancer was only two years and treatment has come on such a lot in that time, they are moving forward all the time with treatments that won’t be so invasive and make you feel so low.
“I’m in limbo at the moment, I don’t know whether I’m cured or not cured. I had a cancer scare at Christmas but it was just a nasty infection. I’ve been put on a hormone-based cancer drug for the next ten years but it is always there - is it going to come back or has it spread? But I would say that life is for living and its good to be here.”