My mother, a healthy and energetic woman, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. Your world crashes when something like this happens, but my mother remained positive. She was operated on and then underwent nine months of gruelling treatment.
She came out the other end and life resumed, but her illness hung over me. Every time she had to go for a regular check-up, the nerves would start and I lived in fear of the disease returning. Nine years later, it did come back and that time it took her life.
During her remission my mother befriended a local shopkeeper, Michelle Lovell, who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer herself. Michelle went through similar chemo as mum and we were all brought together by their cancer.
After mum died, I became very close to Michelle. She was in remission herself. She wanted to give something back and so used her beautiful little gift shop to raise money for breast cancer charities. It started with a cake stall one year, and grew and grew each year, until the final Paint Highbury Pink event which took place in 2015.
It was a wonderful local event for all the family, selling fabulous cakes and goodies, alongside a raffle and a tombola – all in all raising over £10,000 on the day. Michelle was the beating heart of the local community. She really brought people together and worked tirelessly to raise money
Michelle’s cancer came back in late 2014. The initial diagnosis was bleak, but she remained positive, refused to give in and lived each day to the full until she finally lost her fight in January this year. She just got on with it. She never complained, and made her illness easy for everyone around her to deal with. She was the strongest most inspirational woman I will ever know, and she is missed more than words can say.
Both my mum and Michelle stayed strong and I think strength and positivity really does help, although understandably for some people this can be hard. Treatment bought time for both of them – and that time should be lived to the full. Enjoy the life you have.
Alongside Michelle’s daughters, Sarah and Katie, we’re going to continue the Paint Highbury Pink fundraiser after my wonderful friend passed last year. Breast Cancer Now's line that “by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live" is the one thing that made this charity the one for us.
We’ll be wearing it pink in October because not only does it help to raise vital funds, it unites people in colour for one cause. So many people are affected by this disease and we need to beat it for our kids, our grandchildren, and all the generations to come.