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Mum-of-four from Ashingdon raises awareness as part of Breast Cancer Awareness month
“MY whole world collapsed” Elaine Trott describes the moment she was told she was suffering from breast cancer.
The mum-of-four from Ashingdon has her youngest son, Charlie, to thank for alerting her to breast cancer.
She was having a cuddle with the 15-month-old tot in November 2009 when he threw his head back forcefully, striking her painfully in the breast area.
A few days later, Elaine found a lump in that breast while she was showering.
She immediately booked to see her GP, who thought it was a bruise from the bump with Charlie, but nevertheless referred her to Southend University Hospital’s breast unit.
Elaine, 43, said: “My mum died of a brain tumour when I was 21 and I have always been hot on checking myself. The lump was the size of a cherry tomato and uneven like a cauliflower.”
At the breast unit, Elaine was examined and had a mammogram and biopsy the same day. The results confirmed her worst fears.
She said: I don’t remember too much about that conversation.
“My whole world collapsed. I had scans the following week to check it had not spread and went in for a mastectomy on 22 December, 2009.”
She was allowed out to spend Christmas Day with her husband, Chris, also 43, and children Hollie, now 11, Jack, nine, Alfie, seven and Charlie, four.
Since then, Elaine has endured chemotherapy, radiotherapy and the specialist drug Herceptin. Earlier this year she underwent a breast reconstruction.
She said: “It was extremely hard, I look back now and think ‘how the hell did I get through that? But you have to.
“It has totally changed my life, a day doesn’t go by when I don’t think of cancer it is always with me. You learn to get on with it and appreciate what is important in life.”
Elaine, who runs an air-conditioning business with husband Chris, was full of praise for the care she received at Southend Hospital.
She added: “The breast unit at Southend is absolutely fantastic. They have so much time for you. At the beginning I was completely distraught but staff from the receptionist to the nurses and consultants were absolutely fantastic.
“I could phone up my breast care nurse at any time or just go along and have a chat if I was worried – they were always positive.”
As a result of her treatment, Elaine was a willing volunteer on an international clinical trial to test a new drug neratinib.
Although it is a randomised trial and she does not know if she is receiving the drug or a placebo, she added: “I wanted to help other women in the future. Going on the trial means I have more check-ups and blood tests at the hospital, which for me is a good thing.
“Whereas hospitals were always scary places for me, when I go to Southend now I find it really comforting.”
Elaine told her story to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month (OCT) and wants other people to be aware of the risks and keep a close eye on their health.
Neil Rothnie, consultant breast surgeon at Southend University Hospital’s breast care unit, said the hospital runs the South Essex Breast Screening Service that currently checks around 23,000 women every year.
Southend Hospital is one of the highest contributors to national and international clinical trials in both this area and in evaluating new drugs and treatments.
Mr Rothnie said: “Every woman has a risk of getting breast cancer and there may be various factors which increase that risk. Some you can change and some you can’t – like growing older and your parentage. But you can come for your mammogram when invited. Of course, women have freedom of choice but we would encourage them to attend for a regular check. It is free and tightly quality controlled.”
Every year, Southend breast unit diagnoses and treats over 400 new breast cancers.
Mr Rothnie said: “It is amazing that some women still come with very advanced breast cancers which they have known about and ignored – perhaps because of their personal circumstances or out of fear.
“I would urge women to seek advice as soon as they are aware of any lumps.”
He said there are now many new treatments and the prognosis is hugely better than a few years ago.
Mr Rothnie added: “Some people hear the word ‘cancer’ and immediately think they are going to die, however with effective modern treatments the outlook is very good. We aim to treat women and get them back to a full normal life and activities.”