Although Shelley Gluyas’s mum and grandmother had both battled breast cancer, it came as a complete surprise when she was diagnosed in October last year.
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Her mum, Susan Connelly, had been diagnosed just before her 50th birthday, whilst Shelley’s grandmother, Doris Ashman - who is in her 80s - was diagnosed in 2014. Both women have been treated successfully, but now have to watch Shelley go through the same gruelling process.
Shelley, who lives in Buckshaw Village, Chorley, saw her GP after feeling a lump on her breast earlier last year. Due to Shelley’s family history, she was immediately referred to a breast clinic for tests.
The 36-year-old dental nurse, who works in Accrington, had a biopsy, but still didn’t feel overly concerned. She was therefore shocked when she found out her next appointment was with a consultant.
Shelley was told that she had triple negative breast cancer. Triple negative breast cancer is an uncommon type of breast cancer. Around 15 out of every 100 breast cancers are triple negative.
I stay positive, apart from some low times when the chemotherapy was a challenge. I tell myself I just have to get on with it. The choice is to wallow in self-pity or get through it.Shelley Gluyas
She says: “The news was a shock because I didn’t think I had cancer. Even when they did the biopsy, friends and work colleagues said they didn’t think it would be cancer because I was only 35 at the time.”
Shelley had a lumpectomy before embarking on her first course of chemotherapy in December last year.
During her second course of chemotherapy, the treatment made her so sick she ended up back in hospital.
She finished chemotherapy in mid-March. And started radiotherapy treatment last week.
Genetic testing has confirmed that Shelley is not carrying the BRCA gene.
She is intent on encouraging women to be aware of anything unusual with their bodies.
Shelley adds: “I thought it would never happen to me, even with a history of breast cancer in my family.
“I want to raise awareness about how important early detection is.
“I encouraged my friends through social media to check their breasts and recently a friend found a lump. It was a cyst but she appreciated having the opportunity to get it checked out.”
Shelley, who stopped working at the end of last year and has had the full support of her employer, has been determined to stay positive.
She adds: “I struggled with the chemotherapy as it made me so sick in the first few days.
“Having cancer has made me look at my life and realise the important things - family and friends and simple things like taking a walk.
“More research is needed into triple negative breast cancer. I hope that by telling my story it may help others.”
Before her hair fell out, Shelley had it cut off and donated her hair to a charity which makes wigs for children with cancer.
Shelley took part in Race for Life 10 years ago after her mum was diagnosed and she is encouraging women to sign up now.
As her treatment will be on-going, Shelley is not taking part this year, but will be a special guest on Sunday June 17, talking on stage about her experience and sending participants on their way.
She says: “I stay positive, apart from some low times when the chemotherapy was a challenge. I tell myself I just have to get on with it. The choice is to wallow in self-pity or get through it.”
Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is an inspiring women-only series of 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy, Half Marathon and Hiking events.
Jane Bullock, Cancer Research UK’s North West spokesman, says: “Taking part in Race for Life is a special and unique experience - full of emotion, courage, tears and laughter.
“By joining like-minded ladies, women can unite against a disease that affects us all in some way.”