A mother-of-two says her breast cancer scare has made her want to do more to support the breast imaging workforce, and she is fundraising for the NBIA’s Build To Beat Breast Cancer appeal as part of her 40th birthday celebrations.
Michelle White has chosen to share her story for the first time this Mother’s Day – a day she thought she might not see again when, 10 years ago, she was told a lump spotted in her breast had a strong chance of being breast cancer.
Although the lump turned out to be a far less sinister sclerosing fibroadenoma (a benign breast condition as a result of the normal ageing process), the whole experience – which involved a number of repeat hospital visits, scans and biopsies to achieve a diagnosis – and particularly waits for test results, means Michelle always remembers the anniversary of her scare.
And it’s also made her even more passionate about her new job at Manchester Foundation Trust Charity – working as the Corporate Partnership Manager focusing on helping to raise £3.2million for the charity’s Build to Beat Breast Cancer campaign.
The appeal, which is being run in partnership with Prevent Breast Cancer, will fund an outstanding training facility at Wythenshawe Hospital, part of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT). The building will be an extension of the Nightingale Centre and will help to tackle staff shortages across the breast imaging workforce and provide access to the specialist training programmes for the additional mammographers, radiographers and breast clinicians needed to deliver sustainable breast screening and care services across the country. The new National Breast Imaging Academy building will train up the breast cancer professionals of tomorrow and help save lives.
“Working on this project has taught me so much about what patients go through now,” said Michelle. “I consider myself very lucky not only, of course, for not having breast cancer but also being seen in a relatively short space of time.
“When we launched the appeal late last year, I learned from Dr Mary Wilson, a consultant breast radiologist with MFT, that even before the coronavirus pandemic, many breast services across the country were struggling to diagnose and treat people as quickly as health professionals would want.
“I would hate to be in a position today, where I was waiting longer for appointments and test results – it’s such a harrowing time.
“I’m not pretending for one second I know what having breast cancer is like. I have no idea what cancer patients are going through and I won’t pretend to. But I do know how anxious I was awaiting results. And I do know what it was like preparing to celebrate my little boy’s first birthday, feeling that the future was suddenly very uncertain.”
Back in 2012, new mum Michelle initially wasn’t concerned when she found a pea-sized lump on her right breast. As she had recently finished breast feeding her first child Jacob, she put it down to a side-effect of being a new mum but decided to get it checked out anyway.
“I thought it would be a blocked milk duct or something to do with breast feeding,” said Michelle. “So at first I wasn’t overly worried. But my GP examined me and referred me to my local hospital.
“I remember the appointment was just before Jacob’s first birthday – 12th April 2012. The doctor who examined me said there was a ‘strong chance’ it was breast cancer and he’d have to send me for a mammogram. I was absolutely devastated.
“I remember leaving there wondering if Jacob’s birthday would be the only one I saw. Afterwards I was buying balloons and presents imagining it being the last birthday I saw. Honestly my heart goes out to anyone awaiting test results for cancer. It was the most traumatic thing I’ve ever been through.”
Her son Jacob is turning 11 this year and Michelle is now also mum to Elsie, aged seven. As Michelle turns 40 this year, she’s planning a big fundraising challenge of her own for the Build to Beat Breast Cancer appeal, as well as being spurred on to encourage corporate supporters to donate to the cause in her role at Manchester Foundation Trust Charity.
“The actual scar is fine for me,” said Michelle. “But the mental scars are still very much there and it really has spurred me on to want to help as many patients as possible.
“Everyone should have access to appointments quickly – that’s been my main takeaway from this project.
“That waiting and that anxiety – it’s not good for your mental health. This fundraising will ultimately help alleviate some of that by strengthening the workforce and reducing waiting times for patients. I feel very honoured to be part of something which will make that happen.”
Michelle will be taking part in the Peak District Challenge on Saturday, 9th July. The challenge will see walkers taking on a tough and varied route around Derbyshire’s scenic Peaks area. (link https://mftcharity.org.uk/event/peak-district-challenge/ )
To sponsor Michelle visit her JustGiving Page. (link https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/michelle-white64 )
To find out more about the Build To Beat Breast Cancer appeal visit https://mftcharity.org.uk/build-to-beat-breast-cancer-appeal/