One of the many reasons I do what I do

Today, while browsing through newspapers that had gathered on the table in my front room during the build-up to Relay For Life of SecondLife, I came across an article that made me seethe. Not because the reporter, a very nice woman by the name of Diana Prince had personally said or written anything wrong, but purely because the subject matter was all too familiar to me.

I read the article several times, in the end laying it to one side because I am still full of relay instilled emotions. Finally, I picked it up again and made a phone call to The Plymouth Herald offices and spoke to Diana Prince, Health Reporter of the aforementioned newspaper. I obtained her gracious permission to reprint it here, which I shall do. But first, let me try and explain why it touched me so deeply.

Back in 2001 when I first noticed a lump in my left breast, my then boss, a Matron at a care facility in the city I live in sent me to a mobile breast screening unit that was set up at a nearby superstore. I was turned away. The reason, I was not 50 years old and therefore considered by the powers that be, not to be “at risk”. At the time, I was scared to death and angry too. How could someone dictate the age at which someone becomes “at risk”. Cancer knows no boundaries. Age and gender mean nothing to this evil monster that ravages bodies and lives.

It seems that nothing has changed in 9 years. The same powers that be, although I’m sure some names have changed, are still stating quite clearly that cancer does have boundaries. Men are not given exams for breast cancer, even though more men that are diagnosed die from it than survive. Age is still dictatorial when it comes to breast cancer screening, even though 75 percent of the patients on the ward when I was were under the age of 50, myself included.

What I also found surprising is that the breast cancer screening service data is not regularly updated. I was diagnosed at the age of 45 and underwent several operations including a bilateral radical mastectomy … both breasts removed. At the age of 50, I received a letter which gave me an appointment time and went to great lengths to tell me how important screening was so therefore I should keep my appointment to have my breasts screened.

I was not happy about this at all, in fact due to the issues I was having trying to deal with being diagnosed, losing my breasts and life thereafter I took great pleasure in dialing the number listed on the header of the letter and explaining that I wasn’t going to be attending the appointment and giving my reasons. I had to explain several times before the person on the other end of the phone said quite bluntly … “Well if you aren’t worried about breast cancer, then I can’t force you to come in.” Was she even listening to me at all?

Awareness is one of the many reasons I relay and I am so surprised that Cancer Research UK, which was the first organization of its kind to organize a Relay For Life, has not taken a stand regarding this. It makes me angry that a group of bureaucratic know-it-all’s can sit in their boardrooms drinking Earl Grey and put lives at risk. I bet if their lives had been touched by cancer, they would fight for this.

I would like to thank Diana Price for allowing this reprint.

Petition in fight to have age limits lowered
by Diana Prince
Health Reporter

A Cancer patient and her family have launched a petition calling for the age of breast cancer screening to be lowered.

Kerry Barker, aged 36, has undergone two operations, including having her right breast removed, since her diagnosis two months ago.

The West Park mum is preparing to start chemotherapy at Derriford Hospital, after last week being told the mastectomy seems to have removed the tumour.

To help others in her position, Kerry has launched an online petition to lower the age at which breast screening is routinely offered.

The NHS Breast Screening Programme currently provides free screening every three years for all women in the UK aged 50 and over. There are plans to lower the age to 47, but Kerry says she believes it should be at least 10 years younger.

She is also organising a range of charity events with her sister Jo Deacon and mother Lynne Barker.

Money raised will go to Derriford Hospital’s Primrose Unit and the Mustard Tree, which Kerry said delivered “fantastic care”.

The first event is due to take place on August 8 at the Mount Pleasant pub opposite Plymouth Pavilions and will include entertainment, a raffle, head-shaving, leg-waxing and more.
Anyone who wants to help with raffle prizes, entertainment or sponsorship for August 8 can contact Jo on ***** (phone number printed but not shown here) or email

The family is also planning a chairty football match for August 29. Anyone interested can call Dean Tene on ***** (phone number printed but not shown here) .

The family have set up a donations web page at

The petition can be found at

Article reprinted with permission from: Diana Prince
Originally printed in the July 3rd issue of The Plymouth Herald
Petition web site here
No link given for family donation page at this time since the one listed in the article does not exist.

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