On Friday 13th May 1988 I was told by a surgeon in London that I had Breast Cancer. At the time I had a highly successful career in Television and was very well known in the UK particularly for my healthy lifestyle. I specialised in exercise to music and I became the spearhead of the Keep Fit boom which swept Britain in the 80’s.
In 1988 I was devastated by the news that I had Cancer and my immediate feelings were of disbelief, anger and confusion. I felt fit – I didn’t want to die – I had everything to live for – I had so much more I wanted to do. I felt very frightened and alone.
From that day on, and for several months through my treatment and recovery, I kept a detailed diary. I recorded my innermost thoughts, fears and reactions to what was happening to me, both mind and body. I had undergone a bi-lateral mastectomy followed by immediate reconstruction. 6 months later my diary was published in Britain as a book entitled “A More Difficult Exercise”, where it has been read by millions of women and their families who have faced the trauma of Breast Cancer. By sharing my experience it appears that I have been able to inform and give hope and encouragement to many of them.
In 1989 I was invited to be a guest speaker at the 2nd International Conference on Breast Cancer. A fellow speaker was Dr. Eugeny Demin, an exceptional Russian Oncologist from St. Petersburg. Dr Demin who spoke very good English personally translated my book into Russian as a direct result of our meeting and subsequent continuing friendship.
As Eugeny and I soon discovered, women’s feelings and fears of Breast Cancer are the same the World over. It makes no difference whether you’re Russian, British, Chinese, Swedish of any age or nationality, our worries and concerns are the same. We all want, and need, to find out more about the disease, to equip us both mentally and physically to fight our battle. Hospitals and Doctors, however good, don’t always have time to listen and answer our questions.
At times of crisis women speak with one language and feel the same emotions. We all worry about the effects the disease will have on ourselves, our families, our jobs, and, not least of all, how surgery and treatment may affect our femininity, love life and our more intimate relationships.
Sharing the problem is a feminine reaction in times of trouble – in England we say “a problem shared is a problem halved”. I would like to think that the women of Russia can share their problem with me and take comfort from the fact that they are not alone.