Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 November 2014

Three times cancer fighter Joan spells out her success message

There's life during and after cancer, but early detection is just so important

A Lisburn woman who successfully battled breast cancer three times today shared her inspirational story in the hope of hammering home the vital message of early detection.

Joan Laughlin is now recovering well after her third diagnosis against the killer disease just over a year ago - despite having had both breasts removed after her second diagnosis.

The retired fashion assistant paid tribute to Action Cancer for offering her an immediate mammogram after she first went to her GP with concerns but was told there was a lengthy wait.

Mrs Laughlin wanted to speak out to show other women there is "life during and after breast cancer" and to highlight the importance of being persistent if you're worried about breast changes.

The 65-year-old first went to her family doctor shortly before Christmas in 1998 after discovering a lump in her breast.

"The GP told me it was probably nothing to worry about as she couldn't feel the lump. She said I should go for a mammogram all the same, but warned it wouldn't happen for quite a while," she said. "When I got back out to my husband David waiting in the car he was adamant that I wouldn't be waiting. So we went to Action Cancer in Belfast and asked for advice."

Its mammogram service was fully booked but when she explained that her mother, now aged 90, had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had undergone a full mastectomy three months earlier, they made an emergency appointment.

Just a few days' later, Mrs Laughlin's fears were confirmed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had the affected breast and lymph glands removed at Belfast City Hospital within weeks.

"Everything was going well until a year on, at my review appointment, when it was discovered that a lump in my other breast was cancerous," she said.

"So I then underwent a full mastectomy on that breast too."

After a full recovery from both operations, Mrs Laughlin was hit with more bad news last year.

At another review appointment, she mentioned puckering she had noticed in some breast tissue not removed in either mastectomy. A biopsy confirmed more cancerous cells in the tissue. She has since undergone radiotherapy and chemotherapy and is once again in recovery.

Despite her ordeal, Mrs Laughlin is extremely up-beat.

"I hope I have been an inspiration to others. I have shown that there is life both during and after cancer. I carried on as normally as possible throughout my treatment. I was determined to keep myself occupied and not let cancer become the only thing in my life.

"Before my chemo, I had dead straight hair which I was always trying to curl and wave. And now it has grown back curly!"

She also believes the outcome would have been very different had she not turned to Action Cancer for help.

"It brings home how important early detection is and also how important it is to be persistent if you have any worries - it could save your life."

Action Cancer is now calling on women in its screening range of 40-49 and 65-plus to mark the campaign by coming to them for a mammogram.

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