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Best friends from South Wales front national breast cancer awareness campaign

This October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, M&S and Breast Cancer Now will be sharing the experiences and realities of living with breast cancer, as described by of a group of women affected by the disease, and the loved ones who provided vital support to them.

The five pairs involved are a combination of friends, partners and a mother and daughter, and have come together to front M&S’ annual campaign in support of the UK’s largest breast cancer charity, Breast Cancer Now.  From best friends diagnosed with the disease three months apart, to new parents receiving the diagnosis just after their son was born and a mother talking about sharing the news of her diagnosis with her young daughter, all five pairs have one shared experience – breast cancer.
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Best friends Michelle from Bridgend and Keeli from Cwmbran have been selected as one of the five pairs to front the new campaign. Speaking about their health journey, they have kindly shared their story with us below.

Michelle, 43, was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2017. She has had a double lumpectomy with three lymph nodes removed from each side, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She is taking Letrozole daily tablets and receiving Zoladex 4 weekly injections. She is awaiting further surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes as a precautionary measure.

Michelle said: “When I discovered the lump in my right breast, Keeli was the first one that I confided in, knowing that she would be concerned for me and would be there as a source of support for when I needed to speak to someone.

“Since my diagnosis, I’ve never thought about what I can’t do, but instead about what I can do. I don’t worry about the little things anymore, but try to be happy and live my life the best that I can.”

Keeli, 43, was diagnosed with breast cancer just three months after Michelle, in January 2018. She had a lumpectomy in February and two lymphnodes removed, followed by radiotherapy. She is now on Tamoxifen. It was Michelle who encouraged her to check her breasts, after her own diagnosis.

Keeli said: “Every time Michelle went through anything following her breast cancer diagnosis, we would talk it through, so naturally when I found a lump I told Michelle. It wasn’t until she told me about her breast cancer, and nagged me about checking that I did – I just never thought it would happen to me, but it did. Ever since we both started our treatments, we have been comparing notes, boobs, scars, skin, discussing moisturisers and feelings about Tamoxifen. We’ve been really open and honest with each other, but also with others around us.”

Speaking about their close friendship, they added:

Michelle:

“Keeli and I are the same age and have the same outlook on life, positive and always up for a challenge and willing to help others with a big smile on our faces. We bonded even more when she dragged me up pen-y-fan mountain a few years ago for my 40th birthday with balloons strapped to my back, because no matter what we do, it’s always with a smile and the aim to make others smile with us.”

Keeli :

Michelle and I have worked together for ten years and have always been close, but a stronger bond has developed between us from this shared experience of breast cancer that we have both been through.”

From 27th September to the end of October, 20% of sales from a selection of M&S pink lingerie and sleepwear will be donated to Breast Cancer Now. The collection of pink pieces, ranging from bras to sleepwear and vests, are modelled by the women involved. The money raised throughout the month will contribute to M&S’s ongoing goal to raise money for Breast Cancer Now’s research into the prevention of breast cancer.

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Now in its fourth year, the M&S and Breast Cancer Now partnership aims to raise £13 million over five years to prevent 9,000 cases of breast cancer a year by 2025.

Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Now said:

“We are so proud that this incredible group of ten have come together for this year’s M&S Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign. It is very poignant to hear them share their personal experiences of breast cancer and how the disease has impacted their relationships and lives. Their stories remind us just how important it is that we continue to shine a spotlight on the urgent need for continued investment into breast cancer research, which provides so much hope for the future.

“We would like to thank M&S, its customers and colleagues, for their continued and dedicated support in raising vital funds for Breast Cancer Now. Money raised in October will enable our scientists to spend more precious time undertaking world-class research, which could eventually lead to preventing the disease occurring in the first place, sparing those affected by breast cancer the fear, uncertainty and despair a diagnosis of the disease can bring.”

Laura Charles, Lingerie Director at M&S, said:

“We know that this partnership and cause matter deeply to our customers and colleagues, which is why, this October, we are asking everyone to help us fund over 5,000 hours of research time – research that will help us prevent cases of breast cancer in the future. We hope this campaign inspires M&S customers to head in-store or online this October and purchase one of the pink products which donates to Breast Cancer Now. Your support means more research time and together we can make a difference for all those affected by this devastating disease.”

Breast cancer remains the most common cancer in the UK and whilst great progress has been made to ensure more women survive the disease, the need for Breast Cancer Now’s research has never been more urgent. The money raised by this partnership with M&S will help fund Breast Cancer Now’s scientific research to better understand the risk factors associated with breast cancer. It is hoped this long-term partnership will lead to the development of a risk assessment tool that ultimately will better inform women of the options available to them based on their personal risk of breast cancer in the future and allow them to act to reduce that risk.

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