My bra-vel­lous mis­sion

Heather Wal­ters, 37, from Barn­sta­ple, raised a tit­ter and laughed in the face of can­cer

Pick Me Up! Special - - News -

Iwas ly­ing in bed one evening when I found it. It was hard and round, the size of a broad bean hid­ing in my right breast. ‘It’s prob­a­bly noth­ing,’ I told my hubby, Tris­tan, then 34.

But I booked an ap­point­ment with my GP.

Con­cerned, he re­ferred me for tests.

A biopsy soon con­firmed the worst.

‘You have breast can­cer,’ a doc­tor said. His words swam in my head as I strug­gled to take them in. Back home, I put on a brave face for my kids, Billy, then five, and Phoebe, three. ‘I’m sure it’s an eas­ily treat­able case,’ Tris­tan re­as­sured me. But days later, I got a call… ‘You have an ag­gres­sive type of can­cer, you’ll need chemo straight away,’ a doc­tor said. My mind raced. Would I live to see the kids grow up? For now, Tris­tan and I de­cided not to tell them about it. Then, a month

later, I started chemo­ther­apy to shrink the lump.

Ten days on, I no­ticed strands of hair on my pil­low.

My lovely, long blonde hair was fall­ing out. So I asked a friend to shave it off. I just couldn’t bear to see it fall­ing out in clumps. I had to ex­plain it to the kids. ‘Mummy has a poorly booby,’ I said gen­tly. ‘But the magic medicine will make me bet­ter.’

As my gru­elling treat­ment con­tin­ued, I wanted to do some­thing to raise my spir­its.

A friend men­tioned see­ing bras hang­ing from a tree once.

‘Women do it to raise aware­ness for breast can­cer,’ she said. It gave me an idea. My par­ents, Pe­ter, 61, and Jane, 60, own a lo­cal toy and sweet shop in Barn­sta­ple.

It was cur­rently un­der­go­ing build­ing work and had scaf­fold­ing up out­side.

‘We could hang bras from the scaf­fold­ing,’ I sug­gested.

‘Peo­ple can do­nate £1 and sling their bra over the shop,’ I laughed.

We de­cided to do­nate money raised to Cop­pafeel – a char­ity aimed at get­ting women to check their breasts.

Mum and Dad were on board.

My friends and I started it off by do­nat­ing a quid each – and a bra.

Then the builders at the shop hung them up from the scaf­fold­ing.

‘Bra-vel­lous!’ we cheered when we saw them flap­ping in the wind.

We called our cam­paign Check Your­self, Don’t Wreck Your­self.

I set up a Face­book page and be­gan writ­ing a blog. Soon it was at­tract­ing thou­sands of read­ers.

And be­fore long, the shop was cov­ered in a rain­bow of bras of all shapes and sizes.

When my treat­ment got tough, I’d just imag­ine all the bras cov­er­ing the shop and gig­gle.

Af­ter six rounds of chemo, I had surgery to re­move my breast.

Luck­ily, I was given a full re­con­struc­tion af­ter­wards. ‘Doc­tors took off Mummy’s bad boob and gave her a bet­ter one,’ I ex­plained to the kids.

Af­ter, I be­gan ra­dio­ther­apy to make sure all traces of the can­cer had gone.

My cam­paign gave me some­thing pos­i­tive to fo­cus on. And on my fi­nal day of treat­ment, the scaf­fold­ing was taken down.

But not be­fore I’d copped a fi­nal view first.

See­ing all those bras, I felt over­whelmed. We counted 1,600 in to­tal. I was so proud of what we’d achieved to­gether. ‘Take that, can­cer!’ I said. We do­nated the bras to a char­ity for women in Africa, and I hope that for ev­ery bra do­nated, it en­cour­ages a woman to check her breasts. Now, I’ve fin­ished treat­ment. But I’ll need check ups to make sure the can­cer doesn’t re­turn.

Since then, I’ve con­tin­ued to raise aware­ness with my cam­paign.

A group of us per­formed a flash mob dance shortly af­ter the bras were taken down, and we even held an event where celebri­ties like Ed Sheeran do­nated au­to­graphed un­der­wear to­wards the cause!

I was lucky to beat breast can­cer, be­cause I found the lump on time.

Through my cam­paign, I want to en­cour­age other women to check their breasts reg­u­larly, be­cause it could make the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death.

If my cam­paign saves just one life, it will be worth it.

To see Heather’s cam­paign, search Face­book for Check Your­self, Don't Wreck Your­self.

The cam­paign gave me a fo­cus

We were del­uged with bras!

We raised a smile and vi­tal aware­ness

Builders helped us out

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