Ailsa Gunn, 43, from Leeds, who is currently suffering from breast cancer, has launched a campaign to raise awareness among women and also to raise funds for a registered breast cancer charity – Breast Cancer Campaign.
The married mum of one, who is undergoing a course of chemotherapy at Spire Leeds Hospital, aims to get women to check their breasts and then donate £1 to the charity to say ‘I’ve Checked’, which carries out life-saving medical research to help fund cures for breast cancer.
Her target is to get 200 women to check their breasts, which would subsequently raise £200. She has already almost tripled her goal in terms of raising funds, which currently stands at just under £600. Women can participate by logging onto: www.justgiving.com/know-your-lemons. (The name ‘Know Your Lemons’ is from a worldwide campaign designed to increase awareness breast awareness.)
Ailsa regularly carries out self-breast checks. It was during one of these checks one weekend in early August this year when she discovered a lump.
"I sprung into action right away and saw my doctor on the Monday morning, and I was lucky because I have private healthcare through the company I work for, Carillion," says Ailsa. "I had a mammogram the following day, got the results on the Thursday and had a biopsy on the Friday."
She was diagnosed just as her 11-year-old son, Adam, was due to start secondary school and she had the cancerous lump, which measured just under 2cm, removed (a lumpectomy procedure) on 18 August, the day she was due to go on a family holiday to Majorca.
Ailsa is currently undergoing six cycles of chemotherapy at Spire Leeds Hospital under the care of consultant medical oncologist Timothy Perren, and is nearly halfway through the course. Then she will complete treatment with radiotherapy in the spring.
Ailsa, who works in health and safety management and is working on her good days, says the awareness and fundraiser campaign has given her something positive to focus on as she continues with her treatment.
“The reason I wanted to launch my campaign is because when I spoke to friends to tell them the news I found so many of them don’t check themselves or go to the GP for regular checks and I thought maybe I could raise awareness for women to know the importance of this. Hopefully, all my friends do it now and I hope to spread the awareness further through my campaign.”
Around one in eight women in the UK will eventually get breast cancer in their lifetime.* Every year around 50,000 women are diagnosed with the disease, 12,000 die and millions live with its long-term impact. There are currently thought to be around 570,000 people living with or after breast cancer diagnosis in the UK and this figure is expected to rise to more than 1.2 million by 2030.**
Ailsa praised the care she received from the breast care nurses at Spire Leeds Hospital who offer support from diagnosis through every stage of a patient’s treatment. “The staff at Spire are fantastic and very supportive,” she said.
Specialist breast care nurse Jill Maffey said, “We understand the importance of having a named and readily available contact who is able to provide individualized information and emotional support.”
Messages and support continue to flood into Aisla's webpage, mainly from friends and colleagues; however, she hopes the word will get out to more women. She said, “Everyone’s positive messages and support on my webpage, from both women and men, are hugely appreciated. To see people coming together for the cause in this way is incredibly touching and heartwarming.
"My consultant that performed the lumpectomy, Mr Philip Turton, told me that I was very sensible to act quickly and stressed the importance of finding lumps early. Through my campaign, if even one woman found a lump and gets an earlier diagnosis and treatment then the campaign is worthwhile.”
**Breast Cancer Campaign www.breastcancercampaign.org