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Norwich women are an inspiration to others fighting breast cancer

PUBLISHED: 09:05 13 August 2012

Danielle Richmond of Bowthorpe who had breast cancer and became one of the influences behind the setting up of the Norfolk charity Think Pink. Picture: Denise Bradley

Danielle Richmond of Bowthorpe who had breast cancer and became one of the influences behind the setting up of the Norfolk charity Think Pink. Picture: Denise Bradley

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Fighting a battle with breast cancer is one thing but being the inspiration that helps other beat the disease is quite another. Emma Harrowing meets two women from Norwich who have done just that.

It is well documented that when anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer hears the ‘c’ word uttered from the lips of the doctor or medical profession it transports them into an unreality.

“I had gone to the doctors to pick up the results of my biopsy on my own,” says Ann Graham, 65, from Little Melton. “My husband and I were going to Newcastle to stay with family for Easter and the car was packed up so I just nipped inside to pick up my results before we went on our way. Thinking back, I thought that everything would be okay. I had experienced a dull ache in one of my breasts and on examining me my doctor had discovered a small lump in my other breast, but I felt well.

“When I found out that I had cancer, traumatic is not the word.”

Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996. She went through an operation to remove the lump and had chemotherapy which thinned her hair and made it go grey. “The worst thing was that I couldn’t colour my hair!” says Ann.

Eight years later, in a different part of Norwich, 26-year-old Danielle Richmond, from Bowthorpe, discovered a lump in her breast. “I was always finding lumps in my breasts which upon having them checked out always turned out to be nothing,” says Danielle. “So when I found this lump I thought that it was the same, especially as I was in my 20s – I put it down to being a bit of a lumpy person!”

Danielle ignored her lump but while on holiday her boyfriend noticed the lump through her bikini top.

“It seems silly now to think that I had just ignored the lump,” says Danielle. “At the time I was on holiday the lump had grown to eight centimetres in diameter.”

A biopsy revealed that Danielle had breast cancer and the shock propelled her into action.

“It’s funny, but from the moment I found out I had cancer I knew that I was going to beat it however big the lump was,” explains Danielle. “I decided to go private so that the lump could be removed quicker.”

Danielle had to have chemotherapy before the lump was removed to shrink its size. After her operation she had another course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She then made one of the biggest decisions of her life.

“I decided to have both breasts removed,” says Danielle. “It sounds traumatic but on learning about all the options for reconstruction surgery I decided that this was the best option for me. I am a lumpy person and I just couldn’t live with the worry that I could suddenly find a lump in my other breast. It didn’t seem a big deal losing my breasts and choosing implants meant that I can actually have the breast size I wanted!”

Both women’s positive attitude towards breast cancer inspired events organiser Sara Softley and hair stylist Ruth Thurston to set up Think Pink, a local event that aims to raise money for breast cancer research and treatment through putting on an evening of entertainment in aid of charity. This year Think Pink are organising a gala dinner at Open on Bank Plain. Ann says: “Sara always calls me ‘mother’ as we have lived in the same village for years. Sara would come to see me in hospital and bring lots of goodies to cheer me up. When she told me that she was setting up Think Pink and organising a ball to raise money for breast cancer charities I was glad that something good had come out of my harrowing experience.”

Danielle adds: “Ruth used to be my manager at a hair salon I used to work at. I was diagnosed with cancer after I had left to start another job, but Ruth and I still kept in touch, In fact, while I was recovering from my operation she would give me reiki sessions to help me heal.

“When Ruth told me that I was her inspiration behind setting up Think Pink I was astounded; I couldn’t believe that my experience with breast cancer could help others.”

Ann and Danielle are inspirational women in many ways. Both refused to give up their jobs and their lifestyles when they battled against breast cancer. Ann continued working as an occupational health therapist at Aviva when she could and Danielle’s job as a make-up artist for Mac in Jarrold gave her the strength to carry on.

“I had always wanted to be a make-up artist and when I was diagnosed with cancer I had only just started my dream job so I didn’t want to give it up,” explains Danielle. “The doctors said to rest and give up work and the gym but I wanted to keep working and going to the gym as much as I felt I could in order to maintain my lifestyle. I wasn’t going to let cancer win.”

Ann adds: “It is hard to say how you will react when a doctor turns to you and tells you that you have cancer. I was surprised that my reaction was so positive. I always thought that I would fall apart, but this positivity gave me the strength to go to work two days after having chemotherapy and the courage to get on with living my life.

“If Think Pink can encourage others to gain this strength to be positive of mind then many other people have a good chance at beating breast cancer.”

The Think Pink Gala dinner takes place on October 6 at Open in Norwich. All money raised will go to the charities Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Target Ovarian. Tickets for the dinner have sold out but if you would like to make a donation to help Think Pink raise its target of £100,000 you can by calling Sara Softly on 01362 857191 or email info@softleyevents.co.uk

For more information about Think Pink visit www.thinkpinknorfolk.co.uk

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