DIANNE JEGGO: Previous non-cyclist, now Breeze Ride leader, compere, and friendly promo-girl :)
Cedric and Cycling
"I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 aged 44.
I worked for the RBS Group as a Regional Sales Manager, and as part of my package I could have a comprehensive health check MOT. I reluctantly attended, but I feel very blessed that I did go as the included mammogram revealed, a non-palpable (couldn’t feel it), 1.5 cm lump.
My husband and I had already booked to go away for the weekend to Italy to watch the World Cycling Road Race Championships in Varese, Italy. We told the oncologist that we would cancel it, but she said she couldn’t fit me in and still to go and she would operate the week after. We had one of the best weekends ever, as the inspirational Nicole Cooke, a British rider won the women’s race and several Italians were in contention for the men’s’ race so that made exciting spectating. I had a wide local excision (lumpectomy) followed by sentinel node tracking, which gave me bright blue wee! Luckily as there was enough margin and the histology report put me at Stage 1, Grade 2, so then I only had to have a course of Radiotherapy followed by Tamoxifen.
I had 25 daily fractions (blasts) of Radiotherapy which was very much like ‘Groundhog Day’ but I met some lovely people. I was duly tattooed (to aim the rays) and given my pink Velcro ‘quick release’ vest to wear, and I am pleased to announce that I did not smell like a barbeque!
I christened my lump ‘Cedric’ as it needed to be personalised for me to think of it as something I could beat and overcome, and Cedric sounded suitably wimpy (sorry to any Cedrics out there). I told one of my staff that I had christened my tumour Cedric, he told me that was his Dads name, but could totally understand why I had picked a name like that. Thankfully he thought it was funny, I was mortified!
I asked my Doctor if I could exercise during radiotherapy as I knew I had to get fitter to fight this and help stop it returning. He said exercise was not harmful, but to listen to my body and despite my conviction that it wasn’t going to get me, he said I may get very tired. As I come from a cycling family, and Lance Armstrong, (although his lumps and bumps were in very different places), had made such an amazing recovery (albeit ‘assisted’), I decided I would do half an hour on the turbo trainer every day I had radio therapy. As I was having 25 fractions, that would be 12.5 hours exercise I wouldn’t have normally done. I only got to day 19 and then I felt floored, like I’d been hit by a bus, I was absolutely ‘zonked out’ - technical term!
I was on a ten-year course of Tamoxifen, it was initially five years, but new findings advise that ten years is preferable to prevent recurrence in later life. Even though there are side effects, I used to call it my ‘life saving tablet’ and it was a bit of a psychological crutch. When I stopped taking it, I was a bit anxious that Cedric would return, however I am delighted to advise I am now 11 years all clear.
When I’m fit, I am able to cycle approx. 65 miles in one session from only being able to do less than 10. I did get down to 8.9 stone, losing a stone so I was back at my pre-Tamoxifen weight. Whether the weight gain was down to the drugs is not conclusive, could have been down to hormones and possibly a little bit of comfort eating, but whatever, I am fitter and healthier than I have been in the last 30 years.
I naively have this feeling that if I am super fit, Cedric will never come back. I know this is not realistic as even the fittest human specimens can be struck down, however, what is realistic, is that the fitter and healthier I am, it will decrease my chances of recurrence or put me in a better place to fight Cedric, should he ever wish to return.
And finally, a few words of advice for Mummy G and anyone else who has recently been diagnosed:
- Cedric initially mentally screwed me over, but Cancer is a word, not a death sentence.
- Have implicit faith in your medical team but do ask lots of questions for clarification.
- Surround yourself with a good support team of family and friends.
- Stay positive, although you are allowed to have a moment, provided you always bounce back!
- The benefits of exercise on your physical and mental well-being are immense, but always seek medical advice and listen to your body.
- So, if cycling is your ‘Happy Place’, then get out there when you feel able as Cycling is, in my opinion, always the best medicine!