Getting the message across about cancer

Cancer survivor Bharti Patel with her daughter Lisa
Cancer survivor Bharti Patel with her daughter Lisa

When Luton mum Bharti Patel, 53, felt a lump in her breast earlier this year her whole world fell apart.

“I had a horrible sense of deja vu,” she recalled. “I had all the same thoughts that went through my mind the last time . . . should I tell my children, would I live to see my grandchildren, what would my husband say?”

It’s six years since Bharti was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I’ve done that journey,” she said. “I’ve had the surgery, and the chemo. I thought I’d beaten it when I got the all-clear last year.”

But as soon as she felt that lump in April her stomach turned to jelly and the tears started to flow.

“I was so emotional,” she said. “I didn’t sleep for four days because I was reliving everything - losing my hair, everything.”

“Luckily it wasn’t cancerous. My consultant said there was a lump, but it was just a build up of calcium.”

But that second brush with the disease that has also affected her much-loved mum, who has bowel cancer, has made Bharti determined to get the message out to the Asian community.

“So many people told me the first time round that they didn’t check their breasts,” she said. “Sadly, nothing’s changed.”

Her beauty therapist daughter, Lisa Karawadra, 28, said: “It’s that whole denial, fear factor thing. Lots of girls don’t go for their smear tests and it’s the same with men and prostate cancer – check those twins, guys.”

Mother and daughter are taking part in Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life at Stockwood Park on June 22, as they’ve done every year since 2009. They call themselves Team One Life Live It.

Bharti, who’s pharmacy team leader at Sainsbury’s Bramingham, said: “The money raised is amazing, Research continues to progress, and it’s done so much already. I’m happy to take (cancer drug) Tamoxifen for another five years. It affects my joints and bones and I’m always tired but it keeps me alive.

“So many people at work have been touched by the disease. My message to them is ‘There IS life after cancer.’

“People can see me doing what I’ve always done, looking after my Mum, having my hair done again. They open up to me and talk about it – and that’s the most important thing. Don’t shy away from it.”

She and Lisa both love the atmosphere at RFL. Bharti explained: “I feel as if everyone there is part of my family, we all share a similar story.”

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