A mother-of-four has explained how losing her sister to breast cancer helped her battle the disease herself.
Debbie Turner, 52, from Bewbush, said watching her sister lose her battle to breast cancer created an almost ‘obsessive’ awareness, which helped save her life when she was diagnosed just three years later.
She has chosen to speak out about the experience during October as it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Her sister Elaine Lumb was 41 when she discovered a lump on her breast.
She underwent three courses of chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and a mastectomy.
Despite her hard two-year battle, she was diagnosed with secondary cancer of the brain in 1997 and she died at the age of 43. She had two children.
Debbie said: “We were very close. It was very very hard.
“She came to stay with me six weeks before she died and I’ve got a treasured photo of her and me I took that weekend. She doesn’t even look ill.”
After that, Debbie was vigilant at checking for lumps and went for regular mammograms despite being informed she was at no higher risk than any other woman.
She said: “You get a bit obsessive to your friends, talking about it all the time.”
Just three years later, at the age of 38, Debbie received results from her regular mammogram which revealed cancerous cells.
Debbie had an operation to remove the cells but doctors found a lump during surgery.
After that the only course of action was a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy.
As a mother-of-three at the time, Debbie said the hardest part was comforting her eldest son, who was 13 and remembered how his Auntie Elaine’s battle ended.
She down-played the situation to her sons and had reconstructive breast surgery so she still looked the same.
Since the experience, Debbie has realised that if her sister had not had cancer she would not have started getting mammograms and may not have been able to detect and remove the cancer in time.
Now that her daughter Charlotte is 14, Debbie said she will speak to her about how to check for lumps.
Debbie has helped to raise awareness through several fund raisers. Most recently she helped raise money for Macmillan through a sponsored bike ride and coffee morning at Marks and Spencers, in the town centre, on Friday (September 27).