3 years ago, Helen Addis- features editor for ITV Lorraine show found a lump on her breast one morning while moisturising after her shower. She wasn’t worried. There was no family history- she was fit and well and only 39. It was funny that that day when Helen went to work there was a guest on her show who had bowel cancer (the beautiful Deborah James AKA Bowel Babe) and Deborah advised if there are any changes at all with your body just go and get them checked. So Helen made an appointment with her GP, who agreed with Helen that it was most likely to be hormonal, as she had no cancer history at all in the family and her young age, but her GP referred her to a consultant just to be sure.
In two weeks whilst waiting for her consultants app another four lumps had grown and again Helen felt assured it definitely must not be cancer. Cancer doesn’t do that? It must be hormonal, right? Wrong! It turns out Helen had grade three invasive breast cancer. Helen was facing one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer. In simple terms Helen’s cancer wanted to travel. It was the week before her 40th birthday and her to do list had been all to do with the party. Instead of that planning the very next weekend Helen was booked to have a mastectomy and embarked on 16 rounds of chemo, 17 rounds of radiotherapy and targeted hormone therapy for 17 weeks!
Mum of three, Helen felt at the time she didn’t have time for this cancer business. She speaks about how she told her kids. She sat them down and explained it in a simple a way they might relate to, like when you get a verruca and you need a special cream to get rid of it, well mum has a lump on her boob and she needs the doc to take it away or it will get big and it’s going to hurt so she has to have lots and lots of special medicine and then it will be fine.
Helens five-year-old just wanted to see it, then satisfied, went off to watch tv. Her nine-year-old just said is it cancer? Helen was shocked he knew about cancer at all because it wasn’t spoken about in the house before. Helen explains how she found on the family laptop, in google history, ‘what can I expect the week before my mummy dies of breast cancer?’
(Heart breaking stuff but so relatable for anyone going through this right now with a young family) Helen asked him what he knew about cancer and he said ‘I know it kills people’.
Our kids pick information up from the tv and social etc and whether we acknowledge it or not our children know the word cancer and the severity of it. Maybe telling them keeps them from catastrophising and knowing you're being upfront they can cope better knowing? It’s a different journey for all families but Helen felt keeping them in the loop of appointments etc meant her children accepted their situation better. She tells a funny story about how she found her prothesis in her five year olds schoolbag and that she had brought to school for her show and tell!
Helen talks about a lady who was diagnosed at the same time as her, same age but this lady hadn’t gone to the GP straight away, called it her dirty little secret, and kept putting it off and sadly when she did she was way more advanced and her treatment plan didn’t look half as attractive as Helens and now sadly that lady is in palliative care, driving home the fact that you’ve got to go and get checked the minute you recognise a change in your body.
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in women and is so treatable if you catch it early. People say but it’s talked about so much in the press but why then are women still dying from it.
Helen felt if it can happen to her it can happen to anyone so she came up with an awareness campaign called “change and check” and it’s basically a reminder sticker that goes into shop changing rooms saying in the time you have tried a top you could check yourself for the signs of breast cancer. 48 women have contacted Helen to say from this campaign they caught their cancer early!
From another personal experience Helen founded The C-List, a one stop online shop where you can find all beauty products that are safe to use whilst on treatment and beyond and also tips and tricks such as how to tie a headscarf etc. Helen launched this with Lisa Potter Dixon a high-profile make-up artist. Similarly, to LoveRose this website is definitely not ‘medical’ it’s about taking recovery out of the cold, medical hospital environment and creating places for women to shop that are uplifting and empowering- helping women get back to life!
We want to thank Helen for sharing her story and setting up the change and check campaign, using her influence positively to be seen and heard. Thank you, Helen
Caroline and the LoveRose team
Head over to the C-List to shop here: https://www.the-c-list.com/