When Kate was diagnosed with breast cancer, her consultant gave her Susie’s number to call. They share their story of resilience, love and friendship.
Kate: I didn't have time to think about how I felt
I found a lump in September 2008. I’d had cysts before, so I wasn’t too worried. When I was referred for diagnostic testing, I started to suspect it was something worse.
I knew from the look on the clinician’s face that it wasn’t a regular cyst. I remember trying to drive home after my tests in floods of tears.
I was shocked when I was told it was breast cancer. I was four weeks into a new job, and had just moved back to my hometown, Worcester, with my partner, Tim. I was only 32.
I jumped straight into treatment. I didn’t have time to think about how I felt.
Susie knew everything that was ahead of me
My consultant told me about a young woman who had been diagnosed four years before me. She had known no one her age going through breast cancer and told him to pass on her phone number if he ever had another patient like her. She didn’t want anyone else to go through it alone.
He gave me her number, and I managed to build up the courage to give her a ring – and she was out! Luckily, she called me back, we met up for a drink and the rest, as they say, is history.
It’s difficult facing your mortality at 32 but having someone to talk to who had been through it before was a life-saver. Susie knew everything that was ahead of me, the thoughts that were going through my head and how I would feel about different things. I don’t know what I would have done without her.
When I heard about Breast Cancer Care’s Someone Like Me service, I realised that it’s like what I had with Susie – someone to contact who knows what you’re facing, who is there for you every step of the way.
Susie was devastated when I was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer
On 29 December 2016 my consultant rang. He told me that tests had revealed that my cancer had come back. At this point, we didn’t know it was secondary breast cancer. I told Tim that I had to call Susie.
She was absolutely devastated, and invited Tim and me over immediately. When I arrived, she opened the door and just held me. I didn’t cry at all – I think Susie did all the crying for me.
We’ve always been honest with each other, and my secondary diagnosis means that our dynamic has changed. She may not understand my current experiences, but she’s still the one to say, ‘Mate, let’s go make memories!’ We’ve done so many amazing things together. She’s still there for me and I’m still there for her.
I wanted to show the impact she had on my life
In 2017, Susie saw an advert for The Show on Twitter. We’d both used Breast Cancer Care’s information before, and when Susie saw it was a catwalk show, she said we should go for it.
We wrote our applications together and, amazingly, both got asked to be models! I didn’t believe it was happening until I came to London for the fitting day.
I was asked to speak at the event, and I decided to write a speech about Susie. I wanted to show everyone how much of an impact she had on my life.
On the night, I faltered at the end and couldn’t get my words out. Susie came running on stage and gave me the biggest hug. I think it brought home to everyone in the room what she meant to me.
Susie: breast cancer sent me into a spiral
I had found a lump when I was away on a hen do. When I got back, I immediately went to the doctor's. They thought that it wasn’t anything sinister, and told me to leave it a month and come back after my period.
The lump stayed. I went back to the doctors, who referred me for testing. It didn’t ring any alarm bells – it was all new to me and I didn’t expect cancer.
There was no two-week window for referrals back then and it took six to eight weeks for me to be seen at the hospital. On the 25 November, I was told I had breast cancer.
It sent me into a complete spiral. I had just turned 26 and was planning my wedding – now I didn’t know if I was going to survive.
I wanted to tell everyone to get on with it
I had two surgeries and six months of chemotherapy. I also had radiotherapy at the same time, as I didn’t want my burn marks to show on my wedding day. I got married a month after my treatment, which sounds a bit crazy.
My diagnosis came as such a blow to my family and me. It was difficult trying to support everyone else. I was in a hospital-shaped cocoon of appointments and clinics, and I wanted to shake them all and tell them to get on with it.
There was nobody like me to talk to
When I was going through my treatment there was nobody like me to talk to. I felt isolated and wished I had someone who knew what I was going through.
When my consultant rang and asked if he could put Kate in touch with me, I immediately said yes. We hit it off straight away. Talking to Kate helped me address some of the anxieties my breast cancer treatment had left behind, and our friendship just grew and grew.
It’s wonderful that something so horrible brought us something so amazing.
I felt like it should have been me
Kate’s secondary diagnosis hit us all like a train. I was completely numb. I felt like it should have been me.
She was busy trying to keep everyone else sane, and I felt helpless. I didn’t understand what she was now experiencing.
I had to learn to put my emotions on the backburner. I know I just need to be there for her, just like she is for me. She’s still very much Kate – lairy, funny and still taking the mick out of me!
I’m so proud of Kate
Doing The Show with Kate was one of the best moments of my life.
She told me on the train that she’d written the speech about me. She gave me a copy and went to the bathroom so I could read it. I had tears in my eyes when she came back. I was so proud of her for doing the speech and felt lucky that we were together, surrounded by all the special people in our lives.
With breast cancer, a lot of people don’t know what to say or avoid the subject together. But avoiding it isn’t normal and isn’t real life.
Kate and I are very straight with one another and it’s important to be open and honest with your friends. They need to know that you’ll be there for them, no matter what.
We are working together with Accessorize this Breast Cancer Awareness Month to support people with breast cancer. £3 from the sale of their friendship bracelets will go to Breast Cancer Care. Alone we are strong, together we are stronger.