Frankie and Dawn

Location

Harleston

Condition

Breast Cancer

What happened

Frankie and Dawn
 
Frankie’s Mum Dawn sits in the Big C Centre, Norwich, not for the first time. She is currently being treated for breast cancer for a second time. Her cancer appeared when she was almost clear of her 5 year post-lumpectomy check ups.
 
In 2008 I had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. They asked me at the time if I wanted a mastectomy and I said no. I wanted to see how that treatment worked. I wish I’d had it now as I wouldn’t be sitting here. Unusually, the cancer that appeared in January this year is a totally different form of breast cancer, despite being in exactly the same place as the cancer I had in 2008. My girls were then 9 and 13. They’re 15 and 19 now so understand a lot more.
 
I was clear until January this year. I felt the lump and knew it hadn’t been there before but hoped it was scar tissue from the lumpectomy as it was in exactly the same place. It wasn’t scar tissue and I was quickly sent for treatment.
 
It was more aggressive this time but fortunately still primary cancer. I’m having chemotherapy again as well as a mastectomy this time. I had reconstructive surgery via a tummy tuck at the same time. Because I’d had radiotherapy I couldn’t have an implant but this option was even better – I have a flatter tummy and nothing unnatural in my body! And I could have the operation in Norwich hospital. I’m only 48 and definitely wasn’t ready to wear a prosthesis for the rest of my life.
 
Since I found out I had cancer again, I’ve found so many people react in so many different ways. My close friends have been amazing, really supportive. But some people have crossed the street instead of face me, which I find really strange. Others often find they don’t know what to say – surely it’s easy? You say I’m sorry and carry on as normal? The people in my village have really overwhelmed me though. They created a meal-making rota between them. When I was having regular treatment in hospital the girls would go to school, come and visit me, go home, do homework, do some cleaning and find they’d have dinner delivered to the door. We all found it so helpful and are eternally grateful to our neighbours for thinking of us and going that extra mile to help.
 
I’ve used the Big C Centre through both my cancer experiences. It’s so restful in here. That’s what I love most about it. It’s such a restful space. I don’t know how they do it. I guess it’s a mixture of proper tea, proper cups, loads of natural light. I think that’s a big thing – the flood of natural light in the centre of the building is lovely. Hospitals are often full of strip lights. It’s a nice change. I’ll come here when I have an appointment. Things often get delayed and it’s good to sit and take time out here. I’ve also used Look Good Feel Better as well as the complementary therapy sessions. It’s great the girls can have them as well [Dawn’s eldest daughter floated in after having a massage during our chat]. It’s so nice to spend a few hours being pampered with others going through the same thing. We’ve also used a lot of the information the library and the wig clinic (although it’s been too hot this summer to wear it).
 
Me having cancer has affected us all in different ways. My husband doesn’t use the Centre a lot apart from the odd cuppa but my girls and I do. Frankie believes we’ve all found our own individual ways of dealing with it. Frankie has focused herself by committing to climb Ben Nevis with her Dad. They did the climb in under 7 hours – 8 being the average, so I was enormously proud of them. So far Frankie’s raised a fantastic £1,750 and it’s ever-increasing. The school has got behind it hugely. The PE teacher has helped a lot – she and her family were helped by Big C as well so she wanted to get behind the fundraising.'
 
Frankie (15) says, ‘I was expecting it to be far worse than it actually was. The most difficult thing was the temperature change. It went from 28 degrees down to 5 degrees at the top! It wasn’t cloudy at all so we could see the amazing view. Coming down was harder than going up though – it hurt my legs more than going up! The climb has been a good way of getting us all through the last few months. It’s helped focus us all on giving back, giving us a purpose.'

Why not help Frankie in her fundraising? Click here to donate directly to her events page.