Two sisters, both from the Bath area, admit to being closer than ever after a life-changing experience of a breast cancer diagnosis just weeks apart from each other.
Amy Buller, 35 from Oldfield Park in Bath and older sister Kate Evans, 45 from Melksham, admit to having had little in common, but all that changed last Christmas when both found out they had breast cancer.
Now they are backing Cancer Research UK’s ‘Right Now’ campaign, which launches with a series of ground-breaking adverts on Boxing Day.
Amy, a keen roller derby player was taking part in a match last September when she got hit in the chest.
As the New Year starts, Kate and Amy are reflecting on their personal experience over the past year as they back Cancer Research UK’s ‘Right Now’ campaign.
The powerful and emotive ‘Right Now’ TV, poster and radio campaign launches with a TV advert. It aims to show the reality of cancer for patients just like them, their friends and family.
Amy explains how and why she went to see her GP. She said: “Roller derby is a physical sport and so when I took a massive hit I thought it was just tissue damage.
“But after about a month I went to see my doctor who took one look at it and referred me straight away to the breast clinic at the RUH.”
After several weeks of tests it was confirmed that Amy had cancer. Her dad phoned Amy’s big sister Kate to break the shocking news. But one night when Kate was in bed at 2am, she was unable to sleep worried about Amy.
Kate picks up the story: “I felt my breasts and my left breast was rock hard and thought it must be the button in the mattress. How on this earth I could have breast cancer too was just too weird.
“My GP wasn’t too concerned but when I said about my sister’s diagnosis, I was referred for a mammogram and then an ultrasound.
“I got my cancer diagnosis on December 23, just as Amy had started her chemo.”
Amy said: “I was able to cope with my own diagnosis as I thought I was strong but when I was told that Kate was ill too I just felt that I had been hit by a freight train – that was the first time I cried.”
The sisters met in Bath to share their story and to highlight Cancer Research UKs Right Now campaign, which gives a real insight into the experiences of those affected by cancer and highlights the urgent need for support to continue Cancer Research UK’s pioneering research.
Their initial treatment was exactly the same, six rounds of chemotherapy, followed by surgery and then radiotherapy treatment. But Amy had a double mastectomy as she had a different type of breast cancer to her sister.
Amy, who has just gone back to work at the Boater pub in Bath, was four weeks ahead of her treatment, so she would let Kate know what it was like.
“If I had not had Amy as a point of reference, I would have been going back to hospital all the time.” Kate said. “You have no idea what chemo is going to do to you until it happens.
“It is a weird way to get closer because as sisters we are very different in our personalities. I am happy with my own company where as Amy loves people around all the time.
“We were able to share cancer stories because nobody understands until they go through it and this experience has definitely brought us closer together.”
Amy added: “My experience means I understand all too clearly why Cancer Research UK’s work is so important.
“I am taking Tamoxifen for at least five years. I know Cancer Research UK contributed significantly to the evidence for using tamoxifen to treat breast cancer, and has shaped the way the drug is still used today.
“That’s why I’m backing the Right Now campaign and I’m urging people across the South West to get involved in whatever way they can, to help fund Cancer Research UK’s crucial work.”
Kate is now taking the drug Herceptin. Cancer Research UK is behind many important drugs, including Herceptin (trastuzumab), which has saved the lives of many thousands of women with breast cancer.
Kate and Amy have both had genetic tests to see if theirs is hereditary. Tests have come back negative. Kate, who has four children is now looking forward to Christmas and the New Year and of course spending more time with Amy.
She said: “The last few months have been hard for all of us, but I’m only here now because my sister had breast cancer too. I may not have checked myself had Amy not been diagnosed and I feel this has brought us a lot closer together.”
Alison Birkett, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the South West, said: “We are so grateful to Kate and Amy for sharing their cancer story.
“There are many moments which encapsulate a person’s cancer journey and our ‘Right Now’ campaign aims to shine a light on the reality of cancer.
“Every hour, around three people are diagnosed with cancer in the South West.
“That’s why we’re working every day to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease. But we can’t do it alone. We hope our new campaign will inspire people to take action, right now, and play their part in beating cancer sooner.”
One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their lives, but the good news is more people are surviving the disease now than ever before.
Survival has doubled in the last 40 years in the UK. But to help continue this progress, Cancer Research UK needs everyone in the South West to act right now.
Cancer Research UK’s new ‘Right Now’ campaign launches with a TV advert on Boxing Day (26th December).
The TV advert can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/DuJifOHISM8.