Breast cancer physio was shocked to discover lump
MUM-OF-TWO Rachael Harwood has treated breast cancer patients in Bolton for the past 12 years, so when she discovered a lump on her own body, she knew she needed to be assessed immediately.
Next Tuesday marks the start of Breast Cancer Awareness month and The Bolton News will be speaking to clinical experts and patients like Mrs Harwood about how to tackle the disease.
As a physiotherapist at the Royal Bolton, Mrs Harwood has helped rehabilitate many post-operative breast cancer patients recovering from mastectomies and reconstructive surgery.
But when she was just aged 39 she discovered a lump on her breast in March last year — and knew how serious it could be.
Once she was assessed, doctors discovered a 38 millimetre tumour on her breast and said she would need it surgically removing as soon as possible. Mrs Harwood, from Sharples, said: “I’ve worked with women recovering from breast cancer for years so I know how serious it is and how gruelling the treatment can be.
“I’ve always been careful to check for lumps so when I found it, I got it checked out straight away.
“When I found out it was cancerous, I knew what the consequences could be. The hardest part was telling my two children, Bethany and Joshua, who were only aged 12 and nine at the time.”
Mrs Harwood was told she would need surgery to beat the cancer — but not chemotherapy. I was very fortunate in that I didn’t need the chemotherapy but I did have to face a lot of surgery,” aid Mrs Harwood, who bravely opted to have the mastectomy and reconstructive surgery done during the same operation at the Royal Bolton.
She added: “Because I work with people recovering from this type of surgery, I knew exactly what I faced. I suppose there is a danger of knowing too much, but I just wanted to crack on with it. I knew what sort of surgery I wanted too so I went for what is termed a ‘stratis reconstruction’, which is less invasive.
“Having a mastectomy is a big decision for any woman but I didn’t really have a choice about it because it was part of my treatment. Luckily it went well and I couldn’t have asked for better care under my surgeon Dr Jane Ooi and the speed of all the tests at the hospital.”
As many cancer patients find, helping their children through the ordeal can be a difficult task. Mrs Harwood and her husband, Graham, found being ‘up front’ with their children to be the best option.
The physiotherapist said: “It is very difficult to explain something like breast cancer to young children but we were advised that they were old enough to go through it with them.
“We were very up front with them about it. My son’s first question was — are you going to die from it? He asked a lot of questions, whereas my daughter was much quieter for the first few months. The thing is, you can’t escape it because so there’s so many storylines on television about cancer.” Now Mrs Harwood is in recovery and the self-confessed fitness fanatic is on a mission to boost cash for breast cancer care in Bolton.
Not afraid of a challenge, she started with a 100 mile bike ride, followed by the NHS triathlon a week later.
In June, all the family took part in the Great North Lake Windermere Open Water Swim.
So far they have raised more than £1,700 to help purchase theatre equipment at the Royal Bolton. Mrs Harwood said: “I feel like I have to do these challenges after what we’ve been through and I’ve signed up for another triathlon. Now as a family, we’re looking forward to the future and have some holidays to look forward to over the next few years.”
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