breast cancer

Breast Cancer ~ Shirley’s Story

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I have a story – not mine-  but thought I would tell it to raise awareness…

Shirley’s Story

Shirley is one of the few friends from my real world that I have told about my blog and writing. We have had our ups and downs but there are many things that bond us together. One being the support I gave her when she was suffering from breast cancer.

We have known each other since secondary school and when I had access to a few pop stars I took her along a couple of times. She is a few years older than me and has always attracted lots of sexy attention. And along the way the usual things happened to her. Marriage, a child, divorce.


Shirley was just starting to enjoy her freedom after a separation and I will never forget when she sat down one evening, her fortieth birthday, and told our friendship group how she had shagged a young stranger in an alleyway. We were almost in awe of her. She’d used protection, been up for it and it may sound strange but it seemed to have liberated her too. The event was almost like a moment in time. The way she described it. Destiny but without a future. It stayed with me and inspired a story for the smut marathon that also won first place in a writing competition.

A few months after the stranger sex episode we all met up again. I noticed she was quieter than normal. I can still see her sitting on the leather sofa. Contemplating. Her legs dangling over the end of the arm. But she didn’t tell me or anyone else what was bothering her for a few days.

It was a lump. Shirley found it while doing a breast examination. She thought it was probably nothing. But asked if would I go with her to the doctors to have it checked. Naturally I did.

After scans, a referral and tests we found the truth.

Oestrogen receptive breast cancer. *


At this point the header image above needs to be mentioned. Shirley has always been extremely articulate and explained to me how vulnerable and exposed she felt at this time – the gate ahead was access to the unknown. But she had no choice but to go through.

But the prognosis was good. Early discovery meant the consultant felt they could do a lumpectomy and everything would be OK. However, Shirley opted to have the whole breast removed, to be on the safe side.

The day after her operation I went to visit her. I was driving down a lane to get to the hospital and have never forgotten what happened. A female duck and eight baby ducklings, all in a row, pulled out in front of my car, crossing the road to reach the pond in the next field. I came to an immediate halt. The mother looked at me and preceded to slowly waddle over the tarmac, her babies followed. I panicked and got out of the car to hold up any traffic behind or any coming from the front.

Finally they made it to the other side. Apart from one, the smallest baby. It was too wee to jump up the curb and was running up and down frantically looking for a lower level. My heart began to race as the adult duck just held her place on the path and waited. Finally, the small duckling found a spot, jumped up and flapping its tiny wings joined the others. Phew…

I started my engine, with much relief from everyone who had joined a queue behind me, and I swear – I know – the mother duck looked me straight in the eye, quacked and then disappeared off into the under growth with her brood.

It tipped me over. I cried, and cried.


At the hospital I kept the tears away. To be strong for Shirley.

My best friend had just had a major operation to have her breast removed. This medical procedure could possibly save her life. My heart went out to Shirley for her sheer courage. I told myself that day I would treat my body with the respect it deserved and be thankful for the gift of a healthy life.

To this day that thought remains.

The operation went well and she was soon allowed home to begin her recovery. The consultant didn’t feel radio or chemo therapy were necessary but she had to take medication to limit oestrogen which put her through all the symptoms of menopause. We all agreed this was a small price to pay for getting well again

Everything seemed to be going as it should. She was experiencing a fast track of menopausal symptoms, but she’s a tough cookie. Then out of the blue she didn’t feel great. When she mentioned it I looked at her and it became obvious that indeed Shirley was not well.


We returned to the doctors. Some lymph nodes had been removed at the time of the operation and were tested but there had been some some kind of mix up. So they investigated the nodes again. There was cancer in them. Chemotherapy should have been given. The situation didn’t look good. But as usual Shirley remained positive as her treatment began.

I attended most sessions with her. It was hard. Hard for me. So what the fuck was it like for her? She lost her beautiful hair. Wore a wig and still looked like a million dollars, remaining strong of heart and strong of will.

She won through.

Present Time

Shirley received the all clear a few years ago and is as vibrant and beautiful as ever.

Of course we’ve talked about those times and it is obvious that she very much appreciated the positive support she received from family and friends like me.

I do think her general attitude – to beat the cancer – helped tremendously.

Shirley was – and remains – a fighter

* environmental oestorgen has risen over the years. It can be found in packaging, drinking water and certain foods.

Thanks to Tabitha Julie Purple’s Gem and of course Shirley.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month #39
#266 Breast Cancer Awareness Month

16 thoughts on “Breast Cancer ~ Shirley’s Story”

  1. She is definitely a fighter. And I’m so glad it ended well for her.

    My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, and had a double mastectomy and reconstruction. My mom (her sister) tested positive for the BRCA gene and had a preventative double mastectomy and reconstruction. I was tested for the gene and given the all clear, but as Shirley’s experience shows, it’s not just genetics that leads to cancer.

    And I agree with you — it’s important to be thankful for our good health/healthy body while we have it.

    1. Glad u don’t have the gene Kayla – it is a horrid disease. How brave of your mum – i have occasionally wondered how I would cope in such a situation x

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I have had several family members go through this, some beat the cancer and others did not. I first heard of breast cancer in the early 70’s when a aunt-in-law died from it. Doctors had no idea (from what I understood I was still very little) but I watched as my uncle disappear into the bottle as his beautiful wife withered away before him. Medicine has come a long way since then.
    Sometimes we do so much that we forget to take time to care for ourselves. This is a good reminder to get a mammogram scheduled. 😉

  3. Such a moving post May, and another pertinent reminder to me to start doing proper breast examinations. My colleague had a deep lump found at her first mastectomy, and my best friend lost her mum to breast cancer. Environmental oestrogen is so worrying and cancer is utterly indiscriminate. I’m glad you were able to be there for your friend and that she’s back to good health now. Thanks so much for sharing x

  4. thank you for being there for her. Because I work in an industry with majority female employees I happen to know a sadly large number who have had similar experiences. The most heart wrenching to me are the ones who went through it alone and kept it to themselves.

    1. I can’t image what it could have been like for them – I was glad to be there for her as she has always looked out for me in the past. TY for reading

  5. The environmental oestrogen thing is quite a worry, knowing the source of our food is a challenge, and is something I have become much more mindful of. My cancer was also hormone dependent.

  6. Thanks for sharing Shirley’s story May. The journey through breast cancer is never an easy one, however treatable the disease is. But when you have a friend, such as you, to help you along it really is so much easier. The duck thing made me laugh so much, I’ve seen a family like that, but thankfully never had to stop in my car to let them cross xx

    1. The duck thing seemed very poignant for some reason – and emotions were high. TY for chatting with me b4 i posted this Julie xx

  7. Thank you for sharing such a personal experience. Cancer is so indiscriminate when choosing it’s victims. Every person who faces it is a warrior and should be celebrated as such. I’m so happy your friend fought her battle and won.

  8. This is such a beautiful post. I’m sure that your support and friendship was a big help to Shirley during this time. I’m pleased that she’s doing well.

  9. This was really moving May – a wonderful positive message and great support from you – I believe the power of positive thinking is huge. Great support info too – I’ll watch Tabitha’s blog once I’m home.
    What a strong important message you be shared. Xx

  10. Positivity is one of those intangible essentials. I saw this with my mother who’s experience somewhat echoes Shirley’s. More than 20 years of life she never expected and determined to make the most of it.

    People like Shirley are wonderful to know, they can spread infectious joy. A lovely portrait of your friendship.

    Oddly enough the scene with the ducks is somewhat familiar, too. A friend I was taking out into the countryside for a day out insisted on stopping and helping dozens of ducklings across the road and holding up traffic for ten minutes. Not quite tears, but the smile on her face as the severe depression lifted for a few moments was priceless. x

  11. What an amazing character Shirley is, to remain positive throughout. Thank you for sharing, it is an honour to have our picture used for this.

    1. Thank you for both letting me – I was pondering for quite a while – wanting to use an image that worked for her story and then I looked on MM and saw yours -x

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