A brave Mansfield mum who was diagnosed with breast cancer just months after giving birth and went on to discover she and her family carried a gene that increased their risk of the disease, is fighting back against cancer by joining thousands of women at Race for Life.
Sarah Archer (31), who is celebrating three years cancer free this month, has been invited as a guest of honour to share her story in front of women at Race for Life Pretty Muddy - a 5k obstacle course with mud - over the weekend 13 and 14 September at Clumber Park.
Sarah, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2011 and now works in the same hospital where she received the devastating diagnosis, said: “I’m looking forward to being able to share my story with all those women who are raising money for Cancer Research UK. It’s thanks to women like them that helped fund research that went on to discover the gene that could have wiped out my whole family.”
In January 2011, just one month after giving birth to her daughter Amelia, now three, Sarah found a lump in her left breast. She went to see her GP but at the time the doctor just thought that the lump was because she had been pregnant, however six months later it was still there.
Following tests at the breast unit at King’s Mill Hospital Sarah was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in July 2011.
She said: “When I was diagnosed with cancer I was just in absolute shock I just couldn’t believe it was happening to me.”
She underwent surgery to have a mastectomy of her left breast and in August 2011 began chemotherapy at the hospital.
After finishing her chemotherapy in January 2012 Sarah went for genetic counselling- a service that provides information and advice about genetic conditions- and had tests that revealed she carried the BRACA1 gene, an inherited gene fault that may increase the risk of cancer.
The link between the BRCA1 gene and breast cancer was discovered in 1994 and researchers at Cancer Research UK played a pivotal role.
Between 45 and 90 out of every 100 women carrying BRCA genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) will get breast cancer at some point in their lives. This means that they have between 45% and 90% lifetime risk of cancer. These genes also increase breast cancer risk in men.
Following the results Sarah went on to have her right breast removed to reduce her risk and has also been advised to consider having her ovaries removed before the age of 35. Some breast cancer gene faults like BRCA1 increase the risk of ovarian cancer too. As many as 2 out of 3 women who carry the BRCA1 or 2 genes will get ovarian cancer by the age of 75.
Sarah, who has taken part in Race for Life every year since finishing her treatment, added: “I’m so grateful to research. It may have saved my life and other people in my family. Research meant the gene was discovered and we could take action to reduce our risk of getting cancer. If BRCA1 hadn’t been found we wouldn’t have known any of our family were at risk. I want to make a difference to others in the same position as me by raising money so Cancer Research UK can help even more people survive. That’s why I’m supporting Race for Life.”
Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is an inspiring women-only series of 5k, 10k and Pretty Muddy events which raises millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer sooner.
Although the number of people being diagnosed with cancer is going up - largely due to the fact that people are living longer and cancer is predominantly a disease of old age –survival rates have doubled since the 1970s. Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress. Thousands of men, women and children across Nottinghamshire are alive today because of research.
Sarah Threadgall, Cancer Research UK’s Events Manager, said: “We’ve got on an army of feisty females like Sarah to help us stop cancer in its tracks. Race for Life events are not competitive. They are not about being fit or fast. Instead, they are an amazing way to celebrate life but also remember those who have been lost to the disease.”
Women can complete the Pretty Muddy course at their own pace, climbing, jumping, walking and laughing their way around. It’s about women of all shapes and sizes tackling obstacles together.
Sarah continued: “Participants may be walking or running or climbing covered in mud but what’s inescapable is the power and strength that comes from thousands of women joining together to confront cancer.”
Every day, 66 people are diagnosed with cancer in the East Midlands*.
Cancer Research UK receives no Government funding for its ground-breaking work but, with help from the people of Nottinghamshire, the charity intends to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.
Sarah added: “More people in Nottinghamshire are surviving cancer than ever before. But while we’re heading in the right direction, too many lives are still being lost to the disease. Sadly, most of us know someone whose life has been touched by cancer and this really brings home how much more work there is to do.
“There are over 200 cancers and we won’t give up until we find cures for them all. It’s fighting talk, and we mean every word we say. Cancer, we’re coming to get you.”
There are only a few places left in Race for Life Pretty Muddy at Clumber Park to enter visit www.raceforlife.org or call 0845 600 6050.