FLANKED by the three grandchildren she feared she may not see grow up, doting Mandy Redford today told how a random offer to take part in a breast screening programme could have saved her life.
At 48-years-old, Mandy Redford would not have been offered a mammogram for another two years under the routine system, but a pilot scheme is inviting Wearside women to be tested from the age of 47.
When a leaflet about the scheme popped through the door of her South Hylton home, Mandy took up the opportunity at Sunderland Royal Hospital - giving her many more years with her family.
Specialists spotted a problem and she was sent to Gateshead’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital where she was told she had breast cancer.
The mum-of-two is now part-way through a six month course of chemotherapy course at Spire Hospital, Washington, after having a mastectomy.
She said: “I was just absolutely devastated, I couldn’t talk.
“It took ages to sink in - it still hasn’t sunk in really. I’m 48 and fit as a fiddle. I didn’t think this would happen to me.”
The cancer was buried deep in Mandy’s breast and could have spread to the rest of her body if she had waited until she was 50 for a routine scan.
Mandy, who works as an assistant hall manager at Sunderland University, said: “You couldn’t feel the cancer as a lump but it had already travelled to one lymph node.
“I have three lovely grandchildren and it’s awful to think I may never have seen them grow up.”
Mandy said one of the hardest things was breaking the news to her family - daughter Zoe, 25, son Lee, 30 and 51-year-old husband, Billy - a project manager for a refrigeration firm.
She is also gran to Lyla Redford and Jamie Dott - both two - and one-year-old Heidi Dott.
She said: “The whole family was devastated. It has affected everybody, but they have been fantastic. So has work, everyone has been really supportive.”
Mandy says she now wants more women to be aware of the disease and called for the pilot scheme to be introduced across the country.
She said: “Women shouldn’t hesitate. Mine wouldn’t have been spotted for another two years and then it could have been too late.”
The Gateshead Breast Screening Programme is based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and screens women from Gateshead, Sunderland, South Tyneside, Durham and Chester-le-Street from the age of 47.
Manager Jeanette Bowes, from the programme, said: “Following the national policy decision to extend the NHS Breast Screening Programme, the Gateshead Breast Screening Programme now invites women between their 47th and 50th birthday for their first breast screening.
“This is helping us identify cancers in women, like Mandy, who do not have any symptoms. We believe it is important for all women to attend screening and remain breast aware by regularly checking your breasts and taking up the invitation to come for screening every three years.”
How do I check my breasts?
There’s no right or wrong way to check your breasts. Try to get used to looking at and feeling your breasts regularly. Remember to check all parts of your breast, your armpits and up to your collarbone.
What changes should I look and feel for?
Nobody knows your body like you do,so you’re the best person to notice any unusual changes.
•Changes in size or shape.
•Changes in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling.
•A lump or thickening of breast tissue.
•Redness or a rash on the skin/around the nipple.
•Discharge from one or both nipples.
•Constant pain in breast or armpit.
•Swelling in armpit/around collarbone.
•For free, confidential support and information visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk or call the Helpline on 0808 800 6000.
FUNDRAISERS are being invited to take part in a mass boot camp to raise life-saving funds.
Clothes store Warehouse in Debenhams has teamed up with Hit Boot Camp to stage the fundraiser on the field next to McDonald’s in Farringdon from 11am to noon on Sunday.
Participants are invited to wear fancy dress or pink for the event with the cost of the session, £5 each, going to Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
The event is the brainchild of Warehouse manager Nicola Laybourne and joint manager, Laura White.
Nicola said: “Each year Warehouse as a brand raises thousands of pounds for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Laura already goes to Hit Boot Camp and Josh Cliff from the company said he would be happy to host the charity event.
“It’s a fun event for anyone to take part in. We want as many people as possible to come along so we can raise as much money as possible.”