This disease has stalked my family
8:30am Wednesday 16th October 2013 in News
Buy this photo » Paul Parfrey and his wife Lynn
Throughout my life my family has lived with the fear and effects of breast cancer.
I was born in Guildford and from the age of six brought up in Basingstoke, and then moved to Swindon in 2000. My mother was born in Wrexham, north Wales, and was number 12 of 13 children.
I was in my teenage years when the effects of breast cancer hit me, as my mother was diagnosed with it when she was 55. She had a single mastectomy and was very positive about life. I recall my father making a false breast from foam and a chrome nut and taking it into the hospital to create some laughter around us, which was really hiding his sorrow.
She went through a small amount of chemotherapy to kill off any dormant cancer cells, but a few years later she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma as the cancer had spread to the lymph glands under her arm. This time she was treated on a weekly basis with radiotherapy at Southampton Hospital.
They asked my mother to take part in a generations study, where they found she had the breast cancer gene that travelled through the female sex of all the families of her 12 brothers and sisters. All three boys and 10 girls were initiators of this gene. It continues to travel through her blood-related family taking the path of the female sex, but where a boy is born, such as me, it stops. The boys don’t appear to carry the gene and are considered as a blocker.
A few more years passed and my mother contracted bowel cancer. She had a major operation to take away the affected area and yet again underwent chemotherapy, but this time all the chemo she’d had over the years took their toll and 12 months later it destroyed her bone marrow.
After having blood transfusions on a monthly basis, then weekly and finally daily, she lost her battle and died at the age of 71 in 1999. You can’t say she wasn’t a fighter!
She never actually died of breast cancer itself, but it was the after effects of the secondary cancers that came back to bite.
During this time my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. At the time she blamed my mother for her getting the disease, but they made their peace while my mother was on her death bed. My sister continues to live with the fear.
One of my uncles (my mother’s brother) contracted male breast cancer and later died from it. He was a heavy smoker and everyone thought lung cancer would get him, but this wasn’t the case.
Another uncle (his brother) died of lung cancer but never smoked in his life. He had two daughters. Denise, who was the same age as me, died at 44 from secondary breast cancer – it had attacked all of her body. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery only nine years earlier, at 35.
Denise has left behind two children, Joshua and Jessica, and Jessica is a high risk, as being a female she probably carries the cancer gene which for generations will track its way through the females of my family.
Eleven of the 13 of my mother’s family have died from breast cancer-related illnesses and one from lung cancer, but unfortunately it continues to eat away at my mother’s family, my sister and my female cousins.
For this reason my wife Lynn and I got involved with the Wiltshire Group of Breakthrough Breast Cancer in 2008 when Shirley Garman asked us to join her campaign. Little did we know that just three months later Shirley would ask us to take on the lead as she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the brain.
I also joined the Rotary organisation in 2009, and having ended my year as president of Swindon Phoenix Rotary Club in July, I am a great believer in giving something back where we can to those less fortunate than ourselves.
I pledged to purchase the mammography biopsy chair for the breast unit at GWH and we bought it earlier this year thanks to generous donations from people across the town.
You never know what is lurking around the corner, so my motto is live life to the fullest while you can and attack full on any obstacles that may get in your way.
We can all fight breast cancer by spreading awareness and campaigning. It doesn’t take much to volunteer and help, apart from some personal time and commitment. The work Breakthrough does is amazing, and if anyone would like to join my wife Lynn and her team to continue the work for the Wiltshire Group we would be most grateful.
What better time to get involved than October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2013?
- You can make a donation to Breakthrough Breast Cancer via the Adver's Just Giving page. Click here.
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