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Bright Side Stories - Cath Kidston
Spot It: Real Stories with Breast Cancer Now

Right now in the UK, research suggests that almost half (47%) of women don’t check their breasts regularly for signs of Breast Cancer, and a fifth (21%) aren’t confident about what new or unusual changes they should be looking for*. That’s why, at Cath – a brand lead and supported by so many incredible women – we’re lucky enough to partner with our friends at Breast Cancer Now to raise awareness and empower our community to both Touch, Look & Check and know how to spot the signs and symptoms of Breast Cancer, one hand-painted love-heart at a time.

We were lucky enough to spend time with two incredible women and have them share their stories with us, from their experiences through symptoms, to diagnosis, to treatment. And life with and beyond Breast Cancer.

woman holding Cath Kidston heart spot mug
Real Breast Cancer Stories - Cath Kidston
Meet Claire

“I was hesitant to get my symptoms checked because I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.”

When Claire first noticed some small changes to her breast, she wasn’t sure whether to get them checked. Now, she realises the decision may have saved her life.


There was no definite lump


In 2019, I noticed changes in my breast that were very slight. There was puckering and pulling on my breast, and my nipple started inverting sometimes and looking flatter. There was also a slight lump, but I couldn’t feel it all the time.

I knew I should get checked out, but my changes were so slight I felt a bit silly, like I was wasting their time. I knew there was a possibility it could be cancer, but wasn’t sure as there was no definite lump. In August 2019, at age 42, I was diagnosed with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ).

I didn’t understand why I needed a mastectomy.


I kept being told this was ‘pre cancer’ and that I was lucky I had caught things so early, but that I still needed a mastectomy. I was absolutely devastated. I spent the four months in between my diagnosis and operation researching everything there was to know about the procedure and trying to find and talk to other women who had been through it. I was terrified and felt like it was the worst thing that could be happening to me. I felt very alone and lost.

I don’t think there is much information or awareness of DCIS and how radical the treatment can be for something that is described as ‘pre cancer’. I couldn’t get my head around needing a mastectomy when I didn’t even have cancer. After the surgery went ahead and the results came back, I was told I had stage 1 grade 3 breast cancer. I felt like my world had collapsed.


I stayed active throughout my chemotherapy.


I had thought a mastectomy was the worst thing I could go through, but that was a breeze compared to six months of chemotherapy. I worried about my two teenage girls and the impact it would have on them, seeing me like that. I worried about coping with illness and feeling so bad and about losing my hair. My biggest worry was that I could not be cured or that the cancer would come back.

Thankfully, I am very lucky to have an amazing, supportive partner who went out of his way to make life as normal as possible for me. Also, I had my treatment during lockdown, so life wasn’t exactly normal for anyone anyway. In some weird way that was a bit of a comfort for me.

I was determined to be positive throughout my treatment and kept cycling all the way through. This helped my mental health greatly and I don’t think I would have coped as well with the physical side effects of chemo if it had not been for this. I would force myself to go out even when I felt pretty dreadful and would always feel better for it. I cycled hundreds of miles during chemo just to keep me sane! Getting out, even if it just for a wee walk, is always beneficial.

I also signed up for a course with Breast Cancer Now that gave make up tips, which I found really useful. It was so helpful to be in touch with other people going through the same thing as me.


It’s so important to know your own body.


Now, looking back, I feel so lucky that I went to see about my changes as they were so slight they could easily have gone unnoticed. I could have ignored it and not had a mammogram for another eight years (they become routine at 50), and by then it could have been too late for me. I want to raise awareness that it is not just lumps you should go and see about. Any changes at all should be checked out.

DCIS isn’t talked about much, and when you are diagnosed with this you can sometimes feel that you are being a bit silly to be so upset by it because you keep being told it isn’t cancer. But the treatment for it can be the same as cancer, so we shouldn’t have to feel like that.

I’ve also learned that I had misconceptions regarding mastectomies. I honestly thought that meant I was going to end up mutilated, but it is amazing what they can do now. It is definitely not as bad as you think, and the recovery is pretty quick too.

If there is one piece of advice that I could share with others, it would be ‘know your own body’. If there is anything at all that does not seem right to you, go and get it checked out. You will not be made to feel silly. It could just save your life, and the earlier you catch things the better.

Meet Lorraine

“When I first noticed a change in my breast, I thought nothing of it.”

Lorraine’s initial breast cancer symptoms were not what she expected, so she didn’t see her doctor. When she was eventually diagnosed, she worried it was too late for treatment.


My lump felt more like a splinter.


I was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2010, a month before I turned 48. Just prior to my diagnosis, I had found a large lump on my left breast that felt like a small golf ball. On closer inspection, I also noticed that my nipple had slightly pulled to the side.

But these were not my first symptoms. Several months earlier whilst checking my breast, at the edge of the areola where it met my skin, I felt something small and thin. It was like a wooden splinter or a sliced grain of uncooked rice, less than 5mm in length. At the time, I was not overly worried that it might be cancer because it wasn’t the typical ‘pea-sized lump’ I knew to expect. I wondered whether it had always been there, and I had perhaps never noticed it.

It was my intention to check the grain of rice again the following month, but I was so unconcerned about it that I forgot. By the time I did remember, it had become much larger. At this point, I had no doubt that I had cancer and was angry with myself for not going to the GP earlier.

 - Cath Kidston
I was sceptical that I would survive.


As I had already convinced myself that I had cancer prior to my formal diagnosis, I had started both practically and mentally preparing for death. However, I was thrown into a state of utter confusion when the doctor told me that my cancer was not only treatable but curable. I had been thrown a lifeline, but it meant enduring 18 months of hospital treatments.

I must admit, although I was suddenly filled with hope, I did hold on to an element of scepticism and continued with my practical preparations, such as updating my will and making tentative arrangements for who my sons would live with if I were to die.


I tried to get through treatment on my own


I continued working until it was time for me to have my mastectomy and DIEP reconstruction. I had no intentions of working whilst I was going through chemotherapy.

At the time of my diagnosis, my sister and her family were living with me whilst their house was being renovated, so I had loads of support around me. However, I was determined to go through most of my treatment on my own as I didn’t want to feel dependent on others. I was in for the long haul, and I didn’t think it was fair for my sister or my friends to have to take time out of work to come to my numerous hospital appointments, so I would only call on support if absolutely necessary.

It was initially strange going for chemotherapy on my own as nearly everyone had someone with them. I received some pitiful looks from the other patients and their supporters who I guess assumed that I had no friends or family.


I remained positive despite treatment difficulties.


The effects of the treatment were gruelling. I lost all my hair. I was thrown into an early menopause, I lost my toenails and developed lymphoedema. I was hospitalised with infections, developed a sub-clavicle blood clot and developed cardiomyopathy. The worst of all was losing my taste buds as I love food!

Despite all this, I managed to go through treatment with a positive state of mind. I made the most of my new bald look by learning how to apply make-up and wearing colourful clothes. I had morphed from an invisible jeans and t-shirt woman to one of glamour and curiosity.

I came down to earth with a huge bump at the end of treatment and, instead of being elated, I sunk into a depression. I had brain fog, I couldn’t concentrate, I was fatigued, and I was scared about my future. But even with the trials and tribulations of my cancer treatment, I have no regrets. I am so thankful and happy to be alive.


I want to encourage others to check their breasts


Before being diagnosed and going through treatment, I believed that breast cancer had only one outcome and that was death. I had no concept that I or anyone else would live for more than a few years post-diagnosis and that the sole purpose in having treatment was to extend life, not save it. I am so glad I was wrong.

I want all women to know that if their breast cancer is diagnosed early enough, it greatly improves their chances of surviving. But it is even more important for me to encourage Black women like myself who are of African Heritage to be aware of how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to their GP, no matter how slight. Far too many of us are being diagnosed late, which is drastically reducing our chances of survival.

I have watched several friends die because they have either not checked their breasts or been too scared to go to the doctors when they have found a change. I was too young for breast screening at the time of my diagnosis, and I am only here today telling my story because I checked my breasts and went to the GP. My story could have had a very different ending if I had not.

I survived because I checked my breasts, and I want other women to do the same.


A big thank-you to Claire and Lorraine for sharing their stories, and to our friends at Breast Cancer Now, for their world-class, life-saving research and the support they offer to the hundreds and thousands of other stories of those affected by breast cancer. As a team at Cath, we’re both inspired and humbled to do our bit to raise awareness and funds for such an important cause. And empower the women of our community to Touch, Look & Check.


*Results from a 2020 YouGov survey commissioned by Breast Cancer Now.