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Corinne's story

Normally Corinne, an adventure-seeker, would be cooking a feast or building her new house, but instead, she spent 2020 being diagnosed with breast cancer and going through treatment – all during a nationwide lockdown.

Wip 700 X394 Athome Blog Corinne

I've always been a positive person

I’m Corinne. A vivacious, happy, sociable, independent single woman! As a trained chef of 26 years, I’m passionate about cooking, running my team and mentoring small businesses, giving them confidence to achieve their dreams. I've spent my life travelling the world, and am always looking for that next adventure. I’m currently busy building my dream home, Beech House London!

My mother was Maltese and I embrace the food and culture, as well as passport! I brought up my nephew who is now a father and stepfather and I am so proud of the amazing man he has turned out to be. I have a very special bond with my niece and nephews. They all play a very special part in my life, as do their children.

A mammogram in a car park and a diagnosis in a pandemic

I went for a routine mammogram, two days before our first national lockdown in March 2020. I was surprised to see the mobile scanning unit would be in the supermarket car park. A friend persuaded me to go, I wasn’t going to, and thinking of the two-mile queues I talked myself out of the necessity. I thank them for talking sense into me.

I was called back, which wasn't unusual for me, as I have a history of cysts that are normally drained, so I wasn’t concerned. At the appointment, I was the only one in the waiting room, in an empty hospital. An hour and a half with the consultant taking biopsies, inserting tracking clips and talking to me about the new way of treating cancer during the pandemic. I came home and told no one. I was totally detached from it.

My surgery was cancelled 3 times because of COVID. It was chaotic and nothing was in my control

I was recalled and again waited in an empty waiting room for nearly two hours. It then dawned on me that this must be serious. I was met by a breast cancer nurse who took me into a tiny room where a consultant was sitting in his cycling gear, and I was told I had multi focal breast cancer. It was at an early stage and hormone receptive, but in four places and a large mass. My only option was a mastectomy. At that time there was no option for reconstruction. I could be a day patient and they could whip it off and I go home and then wait.

I considered my options, spoke to a friend who had been through breast cancer recently and went back to the consultant with questions. I was suitable for nipple and skin saving mastectomy - but this could not be done because of the pandemic, even though it was important to me. As I was a low grade, I decided to take oral chemotherapy immediately and see if I could be held off on that until the COVID-19 and operating situation changed.

It took me 5 months before I could look at myself in the mirror

I had an MRI after three months and thankfully the cancer had stopped spreading so the chemotherapy was doing its work well. My hospital trust could still offer me no option to operate with reconstruction so through a friend-of-a-friend and with the help of my GP I was transferred to a different hospital trust that could offer me surgery. That surgery was cancelled three times because of the pandemic. Eventually and thankfully, I had my operation six months after diagnosis. I feel I made the correct decision.

I have one more operation to go at the time of writing, all COVID-19-dependant. My surgeons and their teams have been absolutely amazing. It’s not been plain sailing; it’s been chaotic, and nothing was in my control. I was also admitted to hospital with sepsis. I have wonderful supportive friends and social media followers have connected with my cancer journey and been totally supportive, generous, and just blown me away.

I lost all my self-confidence and womanly sexuality. It took me 5 months before I could look at myself in the mirror, my scars my reconstructed breast from tissue. I lost my nipple and that was big for me, I had great boobies. Well, I did!

Prioritise your wellbeing

We need to be aware that 1 in 8 women now get breast cancer. If we lead busy, stressful lives - we need to prioritise our wellbeing over all else. I’m so thankful that I went for my mammogram, if one person does this by looking at my story or supports a friend or relative going through breast cancer, then I’ll be happy.

I think it’s important to say that not everyone can connect to your diagnosis. Long term friends and family might not deal well when you mention the word cancer. I learned that my energy had to be spent on me.

Wear it pink on 22 October

I will wear it pink this year to help raise money for life-saving breast cancer research and life-changing care. I’m continually inspired by my friend Saima, who passed away during lockdown from cancer, aged 31, and want to do something positive amidst things that feel otherwise. I will wear pink for myself, and for all those affected by breast cancer. No matter how small your contribution, you can make a difference. Life is for living.

To get involved, sign up for wear it pink today.