Brave mum-of-two tells of breast cancer battle to highlight dangers
A BRAVE mum has spoken out about her battle with breast cancer in a bid to highlight the importance of regular checks to women across the county.
Esther Kirkbride-Woodend, from Bootle, was just 38 when she was diagnosed and faced a fight to survive for her husband Stephen Woodend and two young daughters.
Her world was changed when she found a lump shortly after finishing breastfeeding her youngest daughter.
She said: “I don’t feel special in any way because I’m lucky.
“I should have been returning to work after I’d had my second daughter and I had just finished breast feeding my little girl when I noticed a lump.
“I left it at first but then I started worrying there might be something wrong so I went to get it checked out. I went to the doctors and I don’t want to think about what would’ve happened if I hadn’t.”
For Mrs Kirkbride-Woodend, it took time to come to terms with the diagnosis.
She said: “I’m 38 and that’s not that old really. I always thought breast cancer was something diagnosed in older ladies, so to find the lump was a really big shock.
“It makes me really emotional thinking about it. I got the diagnosis and all I heard was that word: cancer. I sat in the room and it was just like an out-of-body experience.
“All sorts of thoughts go through your mind, especially being a wife and a mum to two beautiful, young girls.
“It’s definitely taught me that you have to make the most of life and get on with it.”
The mother of four-year-old Esmae and 15-month-old Billie-Jo also found it difficult to tell those closest to her.
She said: “Part of it is obviously coming to terms with it in your own head, but the tougher bit is telling people.
“You’ve got to prepare them for how they’ll take it and what it might mean.
“It’s quite upsetting to see them get upset and quite often I was the one reassuring them even though you don’t know yourself until you get to the end of it all.”
Mrs Kirkbride-Woodend then faced the tough choice of getting a mastectomy or having a lumpectomy, where only the lump is removed. She opted for the latter, and had the surgery in Whitehaven four weeks after first going to the doctors, before starting an intense radiotherapy course in Carlisle in mid-August.
She said: “For me, it wasn’t so bad. I’ve been one of the lucky ones.
“I had to go all the way up to Carlisle from Bootle for four weeks, and my friends and family really got me through it all. It was over an hour-and-a-half on the train but they all took it in turns to come up with me and support me. They had a rota worked out.
“My daughters were such an inspiration to me. I could be bawling my eyes out and then they’d enter the room and make me happy and keep me going. I didn’t want them to see me upset.”
The teaching assistant at Waberthwaite Primary School is hoping to return to work in the coming weeks after overcoming the diagnosis.
Following her brave battle, she is urging women everywhere to get checked out.
She said: “When you look at the statistics, one in eight women will be diagnosed, but they’re finding it sooner and quicker and that means the survival rate is getting better than it was.
“We still need to make people more aware and I’m begging them to go and get checked out if they’ve got any worries or concerns.”
In honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which runs throughout October, Mrs Kirkbride-Woodend will host a special charity night this weekend.
The Big Pink fundraiser will be held at Bootle Village Hall on Saturday at 7pm.
She said: “Now I’ve got my head around it, I decided it was time to give something back to those that helped me so much. That’s what it’s all about.
“The nurses everywhere were fantastic. They were always at the end of the phone all day, every day.
“We’re going to be having a charity auction with some really great prizes, and the generosity of local businesses and people has just been amazing. The sad truth is, everyone knows someone affected, whether it’s family or a friend, and I think that’s why everyone’s so keen to be involved.
“It’s all 60s, 70s and 80s themed and we’re hoping to see a lot of people there wearing something pink.
“We want to raise as much money as we can for breast cancer care and research to try and fight back against this. We’ve already taken about £1,000 before the event has even stared just from my friends and family going around selling raffle tickets, which is amazing.”
Prizes in the auction include a £150 midweek children’s party voucher from Deckades Awesome Family Entertainment, one night at Hardwick Hall Manor Hotel, and two adult paddock tickets for Cartmel Races, among other generous donations.