Byline: JANE PICKEN
MUM Susan Smith's diagnosis came like a bolt out of the blue. Sitting in her doctor's surgery, the 52-year-old could not believe she was facing a battle with breast cancer, just six months after her older sister Carol had been diagnosed with the same illness for the second time.
"When the doctor first told me it was cancer I couldn't take the information in," said Susan, 52, who has children Danielle, 23, and Neil, 19.
"I just couldn't believe it. Then, when it started to sink in, I was so relieved that I had gone to see my GP and been referred for tests.
"Although the initial lump was harmless, getting it checked out helped save my life."
Susan, from Ouseburn Park, Newcastle, has recovered from the illness and her experience has led her to throw her support behind Cancer Research UK's All Join Together campaign.
The charity wants to raise money for vital research into breast cancer - the most common cancer in the UK - through its campaign, as well as making women aware of the risk of the disease.
Each year nearly 2,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the North East and 44,000 women are told they have the disease in the UK. Eight out of 10 cases are diagnosed in women over 50.
Susan, who works at Northern Rock in Gosforth, first became worried when, during a day of decorating at home in November 2005, she noticed a bruise on her left breast with a small peashaped lump in it.
She went to see her GP and was immediately referred to the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) for tests.
Although the 'bump' on her breast turned out to be fine, the mammogram and subsequent tests actually showed that she had a small tumour in her right breast.
During an eight-hour operation, doctors removed her right breast and reconstructed it using tissue from her stomach. Luckily, the brave mum did not need chemotherapy or radiotherapy, and is now taking cancer drug Tamoxifen.
"Cancer has had a big impact on my family and that's why I feel so strongly about supporting Cancer Research UK," said Susan, whose sister Carol was diagnosed 19 years ago and again in 2005.
"I'm backing Cancer Research UK's All Join Together campaign to raise funds for research into breast cancer and raise awareness of the disease.
"Research into breast cancer is vital to help more women, like me, survive.
"I also believe it's important to encourage women to be breast-aware.
"Every woman should know how to check for lumps and, if you do find something, to get it checked out straight away.
"Breast cancer is easier to treat if you catch it early. …