On the run to help beat cancer

Breast cancer sufferer Diane Brooks, of Winscar Walk in Poulton, who will be taking part in the Race for Life with her daughter, three sisters and three nieces, all of whom carry the genetic fault which causes breast cancer.  PIC BY ROB LOCK'8-5-2014

Breast cancer sufferer Diane Brooks, of Winscar Walk in Poulton, who will be taking part in the Race for Life with her daughter, three sisters and three nieces, all of whom carry the genetic fault which causes breast cancer. PIC BY ROB LOCK'8-5-2014

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It will be a real family affair when Poulton mum Diane Brooks takes part in the Race for Life.

The 49-year-old will be joined at the women-only event, on July 9, by 14-year-old daughter Anna, her three sisters and three of her nieces.

And Diane will be guest of honour, as she takes to the stage to tell other women about her family’s extraordinary fight against cancer. She will launch the countdown and take part herself, on the 5k course along Blackpool Promenade, with family and friends.

The mum-of-four, who works for Lancashire Constabulary, lost her mother (who was just 44), grandmother and great aunt to breast cancer.

Doctors realised there was a genetic problem and Diane and her sisters were regularly monitored, with yearly mammograms.

When Diane was 36, doctors discovered chalky type particles in her breast. A biopsy showed the cells in the ducts had started to turn into cancer cells.

Diane was offered a lumpectomy, but opted for a double mastectomy – wanting to do everything to reduce her risk of cancer. Diane underwent surgery in 2001 and the reconstruction process began almost immediately.

But shortly after, the surgeon gave Diane the devastating news he had found a large tumour behind her nipple, which hadn’t been visible on scans and had already spread to her lymph nodes.

She began chemotherapy and volunteered for a clinical trial at The Christie Hospital in Manchester, using eight cycles of treatment rather than six and a combination of two drugs.

Genetic tests revealed Diane and sisters Claire, 47 and Colette, 46 – who also underwent double preventative mastectomies – were all carriers of the faulty BRCA2 gene. Older sister, 50-year-old Jane, was the only sibling to not carry the gene.

In 2004, Diane opted for a hysterectomy as the BRCA2 gene can also increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

Diane remained cancer-free until 2008, when a scan revealed small tumours on her clavicle and breast bones. She received more chemotherapy which shrank the tumours, but by 2010 a further scan showed another tumour. She signed up for another clinical trial and the tumours shrank.

But just before Christmas, the tumours were found to have grown again. Diane had more surgery and is receiving monthly injections of hormone suppressor.

Diane will be taking part in Race for Life with her youngest daughter Anna, her three sisters and their daughters Charlotte, Lydia, and Molly.

She said: “I think as sisters we were always resigned to the fact at least one of us would get breast cancer and I always felt it would probably be me – I was the most like our mum in every way.

“When I was told the surgeon had found cancer during the mastectomy, it was the last thing I thought I would hear. I thought I had been so careful in having the surgery to prevent cancer, but the operation actually saved my life.

“I did fear the worst, as my youngest child was only two, and I thought I wouldn’t live to see my kids grow up or mark the important milestones in their lives.

“I am realistic there might not be a cure for me and I am living with cancer, but I’ve already beaten the odds with my prognosis.

“I’m happy to be a guinea pig for these amazing new treatments, developing all the time. I am more than happy for my body to be used in this way, because my children and the next generation will benefit.

“And that’s why it is so important to take part in Race for Life and raise money for Cancer Research UK – the charity’s work is helping to fund better treatments and will save future generations’ lives.”

Liz Booth, Cancer Research UK’s Blackpool events manager, said Diane was a “true inspiration”.

“We are absolutely thrilled and honoured to have Diane and her family on-board as our special guests.”

This year, organisers need 2,600 women and girls to stride out in Blackpool.

Liz added: “Participants may be walking or they may be running, but what’s inescapable is the power and strength that comes from thousands of women joining together to confront cancer.”

Visit www.raceforlife.org or call 0845 600 6050.