Less than two years after her breast cancer diagnosis, Debbie, 46, completed the Three Peaks Challenge in 24 hours with a group of friends. Together, they’ve raised over £30,000, so we can continue to offer exceptional care for those with cancer.

Debbie on keeping positive after breast cancer, and completing the Three Peaks Challenge

I was taking a bath one evening when I found the lump. Earlier that day, I’d picked my son and daughter up from school and a friend with breast cancer had turned to some of us in the playground and said: “Just check.” So I thought, ‘I’ll just have a feel...'. And there it was.

Within a week of seeing my GP, I was sent for tests at Royal Surrey County Hospital. After scans, a mammogram and biopsies, my doctor turned to me and said: “You’ll get the results in a week but I have to tell you now; it could be cancer.”

I remember sitting in my car afterwards and feeling like this wasn’t going to be good. The fact she’d said that helped me prepare: I’d had a week to process that it could be not great news. And unfortunately, my tests showed that I had grade three, aggressive breast cancer."

We’ve always been very open as a family so my husband and I wanted to let our children know before I started chemo. They were eight and nine years old at the time and I remember telling them: “I’m going to have some medicine that’s going to make me poorly.” My son turned to me and said: ”You’ve got cancer, haven’t you?”

I got cracking with three months of chemo – with treatment twice a week: it was brutal. I’d thought I could continue as normal – working; seeing friends. Everyone was so lovely and I had offers for people to pop round for a cuppa. But actually, I didn’t want to see anyone. I really tried to carry on working, but that had to stop.

I did manage to visit my sister in France. By that point, my hair was coming out in clumps and my brother-in-law offered to shave it off for me and so that’s what we did. It’s amazing really: I’d spent so much time worrying about that before starting treatment – losing my hair – but actually, it didn’t matter to me anymore.

I cannot tell you how incredible the breast cancer team at Royal Surrey were during that time. They have the whole process so finely tuned and they are so brilliant at it. They know how to feed you the information: they’re empathetic as well as sympathetic; they just got it so right. I felt cocooned in a nest of support and that made me incredibly positive and allowed me not to worry.

I felt like I was in safe hands and I trusted the team completely. That is really so important for your mental health as well as your physical.

It’s because of them that I wanted to give something back. The breast care team – they give their lives to be here, working day in and day out, often for very long hours. And not only that, but they’re doing brilliant, innovative things for people with breast cancer.

The Three Peaks Challenge was harder than I thought it would be. I did it with eight lovely friends from university and we called ourselves The Peaky Blinders. They were amazing but it was gruelling. We did it in the middle of Storm Hector and there were times we weren’t sure we’d be able to complete it. But we did it!

Our initial fundraising target was £5,000 and we can’t believe the support we’ve had. People have been very generous and recognised what I’ve been through. What really struck me through the whole thing is how incredible your friends and family are and how the little gestures they make – cards or little gifts in the post, an offer to walk the dog, a lasagne on your doorstep – make all the difference. Even when I didn’t feel I could see people, just knowing people were thinking of me meant so much.

It was because of this that I set up my own business with a friend, Albi & Mac, an online shop for gifts of comfort to let people know you’re thinking of them at difficult times. The company was named after my dog Albi, who got me out every day for a walk while I was recovering, and Mac, the dog of a friend who sadly lost her battle with cancer.

I finished treatment last year and I’m just waiting for my breast reconstruction surgery, following my mastectomy. It’s been a long process but I feel like I’ve grabbed so many positives from the experience and I feel like I’m making a little bit of difference.


If you're inspired by Debbie's story, why not help transform healthcare for everyone in South West Surrey and beyond? For more information about how you can help, give us a call on 01483 464146 or send us an email.    

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