“Mince pies save lives!” according to a Walsall breast cancer survivor who didn’t notice her lump until she patted the crumbs off her chest after secretly tucking into the festive treat.
Thirty-nine-year-old Julie Pickering had helped herself to the pastry before her children caught her ahead of their evening meal when she felt a lump that didn’t seem normal.
Julie, who is a college lecturer, was diagnosed with grade three triple negative breast cancer in January 2023 and was unaware of the different types of the disease and how they can spread.
“I didn’t even know there were different types of breast cancer. I just thought breast cancer was breast cancer,” she said.
“Little did I know I had an aggressive form and if it wasn’t for the crumbs off the mince pie, it could have been a different situation today.”
The mother of two, had to have chemotherapy before surgery due to the aggressiveness of the cancer. After six rounds of treatment, she decided to have a double mastectomy with implant reconstruction.
Julie exercised regularly throughout her cancer journey and found it “very beneficial” for not only her physical health, but her mental health too.
She also decided to use a cold cap – a hat that is worn during some chemotherapy treatments – and is grateful her hair is growing “thick and fast” now.
Although age can play a part in developing breast cancer, Julie was young which was worrying for her at the time.
“Once I had gotten over the initial shock of the cancer diagnosis, I decided it wasn’t going to control my life. We all shed many tears and worried for the future, but I had to be strong and get on with it,” she said.
“My family, friends and workplace were there to offer help, and with support from my manager and HR, I was able to work around chemotherapy. From my colleagues, to the staff at Walsall Healthcare who are true angels in a uniform, I will forever be grateful.”
Jayne Kanwar, Lead Breast Care Nurse at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust has supported Julie pre and post-surgery.
She said: “We’re grateful to Julie for sharing her story – not everyone feels able to and her journey is one that many women will identify with. She is a busy lady with a young family and a demanding job and her I think her story reminds us of the impact that such a diagnosis can have on so many aspects of someone’s life.
“People have to consider work, finances and their families as well as the health challenges of cancer, and we’re here to support them throughout.”
Now Julie has been classed as having ‘no evidence of disease’ she is raising awareness of breast cancer by running the London Landmarks Half Marathon in April to raise funds for breast cancer in young people (see JustGiving page). She also raises awareness through her Instagram page and has helped other men and women throughout their journey too.
She added: “Breast cancer can happen to anyone. Young or old, healthy, or unhealthy. I was young when I was diagnosed, and I was fit and healthy. Cancer does not discriminate. It doesn’t care about your age, religion, sex, job title, or if you’re healthy or not!
“Monthly checks need to be done, know what is your normal. If you do find anything seek medical help and always advocate for further testing or second opinions where needed.”