Sharon Harris, 43, from Thornhill, got out of her bath in February 2021 and grabbed the towel on the radiator. She was a bit annoyed that it was a hand towel but decided to use it to dry herself anyway.
“I would have chucked a big towel around me and walked around the house to dry off. But I used a small towel and dried myself differently. I noticed a dimple on my one breast and went to doctor who sent me to Nevill Hall.
“On 29 March I had a mammogram. an ultrasound and three biopsies. I had a gut feeling. Within half an hour I was told I had to have my left breast removed.
“I had my breast operation on 22 April and then started chemotherapy, six rounds over four and a half months. I lost all my hair, my eyebrows and eyelashes. It was lost within five days. I chose to shave my hair off in stages. My hair was halfway down my back. I had a number four all over.”
Sharon has two daughters, 25 and 16, and two grandchildren, five and two. Her diagnosis was HER2 positive.
“My tumour was HER2 positive and producing estrogen which feeds the cancers. I had a 6cm lump in the front and a 7cm mass behind it.
“Twenty-eight lymph nodes were taken away. I’ve just finished radiotherapy and have to have further regular injections at Velindre and my doctor’s. Every six months for three years I have to have an acid infusion. Today, I started tablets which I will have to take for between five and ten years. Then every year for seven years I have to have a mammogram.”
‘Stuart’ and ‘Boris’
Sharon said humour has helped her through the last year and this included giving both of her breasts a nickname.
“There is no point crying or getting angry. I’ve just got to get on with it. I feel like my life has been a bit of film for the last few months. I’ve just got to sit and watch it. I can’t change the channel. It’s a bit strange.
“All of my friends know what I’ve called my breasts. It’s not a secret. My left one is ‘Boris’ because he’s a tit and my right one is Stuart, because I look like a Minion.”
Treatment through the pandemic
Her diagnosis and early treatment took place during a time where she could not have anyone with her at hospital appointments.
“My mum had to drop me off for my mastectomy and I went in alone. That was Thursday morning, the operation was that night and she picked me up on Friday afternoon to take me home. I did have a couple of bad days after chemo, I had three good lots and three bad lots.”
Now Sharon wants to organise a festival fun day in Cwmbran- she’s calling it Breastfest- to raise as much money as possible for Velindre Cancer Centre. Her idea is in the early days and she hopes to speak to Bron Afon and Torfaen Council over the next few weeks about support to put it on.
“I finished my last lot of radiotherapy yesterday and want to organise a Summer festival this year in Cwmbran. I thought it would a good thing to get the community together and do something for a good cause.
“I want to get everything together, bands, a dog show and face painting. I’ve got loads of ideas in my head. A friend said we could get some white shirts, and you paint your hand and touch where your breasts are. Then you make a donation to keep the t-shirt and it’s a reminder to check yourself.
“Mad Mel has said she will do music. I want to get all the ideas on paper and get the ball rolling. I’m aiming for the end of July or the beginning of August.
“My mum has been fantastic, my daughters have been brilliant and my neighbours have all helped out. I would never have got through it without my best friend Laura Peploe either, she’s been my rock.”
Laura laughed as she said: “I didn’t realise I was that popular to be honest.”
Encouraging others to check
Sharon is a fan of the Know Your Lemons campaign as she feels there is too much of a focus on finding a lump.
“It’s not just women, it’s men as well. And it’s not just about a lump. I had a dimple. Children should be taught in school about checking their breasts and testicles. It’s not a natural thing to do, you don’t think ‘I’ll check my boobs or my balls’. Even if I can help just one person that will be a goal.”
Click here and download the Know Your Lemons app.