Secondary, not second rate campaign

Kate Henwood is joining forces with Breast Cancer Care to call on the government and the NHS for better care, as part of Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day
Kate Henwood is joining forces with Breast Cancer Care to call on the government and the NHS for better care, as part of Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day

Support is vital for people diagnosed with secondary breast cancer.

Around 11,400 people in the UK die from the disease every year.

Sadly, the care and support needed are not always readily available, leaving people struggling to cope.

Mother-of-one Kate Henwood is joining forces with Breast Cancer Care today to call on the government and the NHS for better care, as part of Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day.

She said it affects not only the person with the diagnosis but their whole family and friendship circle.

“We need more people to be aware of secondary cancer, because most people don’t have a clue,” Kate said.

“Basically, secondary breast cancer is treatable but not curable, so therefore it will probably shorten my life but we don’t know how soon.

“Living with this uncertainty is like living with a ticking bomb - you have to live each day but knowing that your cancer can get worse at any point.

“The campaign is asking for better support in managing this condition on a day-to-day basis and more awareness that not all breast cancer is curable.”

Also known as advanced, stage four or metastatic breast cancer, secondary breast cancer is when breast cancer has spread to another part of the body, such as the lungs, liver, bones, or brain. It is treatable but incurable, so the impact of the diagnosis is life-changing.

A photographer and entrepreneur, Kate, 48, of Palatine Road, Worthing, was diagnosed with the disease in February 2015.

She said: “Getting the support you need is vital to help you live every day and should be there for everyone.

“Going to a local monthly meeting run by Breast Cancer Care, specifically for people with secondary breast cancer, and sharing my experiences with other women has been invaluable.

“When I first discovered the lump in my breast, I knew something wasn’t right. In the time between finding the lump and getting my diagnosis, I was more concerned about my son, Ollie, who was just 12 at the time, and how he would cope, having lost his dad to oesophageal cancer in 2012. We didn’t need this to deal with, too.

“To receive the devastating news that not only did I have breast cancer but that it had already spread to my bones and was treatable but not curable was just a real shock.

“Living with secondary breast cancer brings so much uncertainty and it’s difficult to make future plans. But life is for living – I live every day and make every day count.

“Having a circle of friends to support you is crucial – I’ve been blessed with some amazing friends who really have got me through some very dark times.”

The charity Breast Cancer Care is there to help people from the start, as men and women cope with the emotions, challenges and decisions that need to be made after diagnosis.

Gunes Kalkan, head of policy and campaigns, said: “Women and men with incurable secondary breast cancer and their loved ones live with unbearable uncertainty.

“When so much feels out of their control, one thing they should be able to count on is getting the care and support they need, when they need it.

“Yet care for people with incurable secondary breast cancer is still not good enough. Many tell us they feel isolated, forgotten and invisible. Too many face delays in diagnosis, do not have access to vital specialist nurses and are poorly informed about what support is available to them.

“This Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day, we want to ensure those living with this cruel disease know support is available. We are calling on the government and the NHS to ensure that everyone living with incurable secondary breast cancer receives the care and support they need.”

Visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk/secondary for more information.