Tell us a bit about yourself
I am married to Chris, my childhood sweetheart. We met through friends and were married on Valentine’s day 1987 when I was 22. I was working for a Tour Operator as a bilingual secretary at the time and the Company gave us a skiing holiday to Switzerland as a honeymoon present.We have 2 children. Nathan, who is 17 and Erika, who is 15. Both go to school at Torquay Grammar school, they work hard and make me very proud. Nathan loves to play rugby and is about to learn to drive. Erika is a creative, peaceful, intuitive girl who is trying to live up to her big brother, but, in her own way.
If I was to describe myself I would say I am happy, caring and organised!
We live a very hectic life, weekends away, holidays etc and have never had pets as a result. Despite this ruling, Nathan particularly, wanted a pet, a dog, an iguana, a cricket, any pet at all. One time he found some newts in the garden pond and brought them into his bedroom in a tank, and spent all his pocket money on an aerator. He also brought some live crabs home one day. We do have goldfish in the outside pond and did have 3 goldfish at one time. We also have pheasants and rabbits and wild animals/birds that visit the garden, I have even seen grass snakes and deer.
What is your current occupation?
Since May of this year I have worked as a Visual Merchandiser. I work for a Costume Jewellery Company and work in several shops in Exeter high street displaying adults and kids jewellery and accessories. Prior to my cancer journey I worked as a French teacher in our local Primary School. My illness and recovery time allowed me much reflection time and I decided that it was time to make a change and live a less stressful life. This job is a stepping stone to, I am not sure where, but I am so much stronger and better for the move. I feel I could now take on the world!
What's your dream job?
I love meeting people and understanding them. I am fascinated in how people live, their culture and traditions, their language and their country. So my profession would have to involve travel, working with people learning a new language and experiencing their lives somehow. Otherwise I’ve always fancied being an Events Organiser for corporate customers.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love reading and belong to a reading group. I enjoy exercising and would look forward to an aerobics class. A new love is yoga and I now do a class each week but really could do to do it every day – it’s so beneficial for body, heart and mind. Anything Spanish. We have had some wonderful holidays in Spain over the last years and I would love to be able to speak the language fluently. I like gardening over housework any day and I walk – a great way of getting a bit of exercise and catching up with your friends. Spending time and keeping in touch with friends always comes high on my list of priorities.
Any interesting facts about yourself?
I speak French and lived in Toulouse when I was 18. I have climbed Ben Nevis and the 3 other highest UK peaks. I have been lucky to travel quite a bit and have experienced places like Singapore, India, Abu Dhabi, sailing in Greece and we are planning a trip to the Maldives in February for our 25th wedding anniversary. I‘ve been grape picking. I can snow ski and water-ski. I loved running for exercise but knew I wouldn’t ever run a marathon so set about enrolling for the moonwalk. To start with places were hard to come by so I walked the Sunwalk in Bristol in 2009. Then finally got a moonwalk place in 2010 and had started the training but had to pull out because of my diagnosis and surgery. In 2011 I got another place on the London Moonwalk but this time had to pull out at the very last minute due to an injury to my right toe caused by the lawn mower! I couldn’t walk a step and was on crutches for a fortnight. I have decided not to try for a third time – it feels like I might be tempting fate but I plan to walk the distance locally in May next year and raise funds at the same time.
What would you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Coming through and out the other side of the breast cancer journey. I didn’t know I could do it – but I managed to be “together enough” to not go screaming down the corridor the day of my surgery. Brave enough to go through chemo and loose my hair. To have enough sparkle left to rebuild my life afterwards. I feel quite proud of myself for these reasons. Other achievements would have to be being married for almost 25 years! And having 2 wonderful children.
Tell us a bit about your breast cancer journey
I was 45 when I noticed a lump on my upper chest, right hand side, in January 2010. I thought it was a strain associated with jogging. It was still there in early February so I made an appointment to see my doctor but still thought it was to do with running and nothing to worry about. After 2 separate biopsies I still thought “in a few moments I will be able to tell my family it was nothing”, but sadly it was something, and I was told on 10th February 2010 that I had 2 malignant lumps in my right breast of the type that were usually hard to detect. Lobular cancer. Fortunately for me one lump was apparent in the high up breast tissue of the right breast the other wouldn’t have been detected from self-examination. Because of the 2 lumps I wasn’t given the choice of a lumpectomy, so it was a mastectomy diagnosis from the outset.
How did you feel when you were first diagnosed?
I was stunned when I first found out. I really hadn’t thought it was going to be me. All the posters in the breast care unit promoting breast awareness said “most lumps aren’t cancerous”. It was a tear or an aggravation caused by running, I remember sitting in with the consultant and he was very matter of fact. As he uttered the words I didn’t expect to hear, fear lurched through my body from my stomach. I looked around the room and all the faces were looking at me. I remember Chris’s face and him going to hold my hand. Only certain words stuck in my brain, lucky, cancer, mastectomy, surgery when? - as the consultant was opening the diary – I hadn’t thought what would happen if it was yes, I didn’t know what happened next. It was so beneficial having Chris with me for the diagnosis because that evening we were able to replay the conversation through and Chris could fill in the gaps. Also, for some reason I now can’t remember, we had to go straight back the following day to see the breast care nurse. She was able to answer the questions I’d been too numb to ask the day before.
Immediately all sorts of practical things had to be kicked into place. I had to tell work, it was nearly half term and we were about to go on a skiing holiday. Looking back I don’ t know how the children didn’t work out something odd was going on but we decided we would have a few days of normal holiday first and tell them mid-week, so that they had time to digest it all before going back to school. I remember sitting at the airport in a daze looking at the people going by thinking – they haven’t got cancer but I have. I felt safe when I was in the hospital – everyone around me didn’t think I was a freak, they knew what it was all about. I felt safe with Chris and my best friend who I’d already told. But when I was out in public I felt very vulnerable.
At first my main concern was “am I going to die? – well I’m still here today, I can live without a right breast”. I was scared to death at the thought of the surgery – I’ve never liked the sight of blood, especially my own. After the surgery I kept going with the positives, doing my exercises focussing on what I still had to be thankful for rather than what I was managing without. It was only after the chemo was over, I’d received my real prosthesis and it was summer and summer clothes that I got really frustrated by my clothes twisting and not sitting equally on both sides. My tops were gaping and this made me feel very self-conscious that it was visible I only had one breast. I disliked wide straps on tops and bras and hated the fear of wearing a swim suit or certainly changing into one. I wouldn’t go into a communal changing room for any money. I remember this period lasted quite a long time.
Who did you turn to for support?
This is so hard because everyone, my friends, family, were so lovely, so supportive, so great to me. But it has to be Chris and my lovely mum. Chris was my rational anchor, as I flew into high speed panic, he would always find a way to ground me. He focused on the facts, what we knew not what we were guessing. He still plays this role for me today. My mum was there. She did the jobs, she nursed me, she made me coffee we chatted about everything, we read books alongside each other.
What was your main worry?
I was most worried about would I die in surgery? After this it was, are my family going to be ok? (Nathan was so worried about me and he was due to sit his first GCSEs whilst I was in hospital), then the practicalities of who was going to do the shopping, sort the kids, the house the washing – 6 weeks of not lifting anything and doing no housework seemed an eternity. My priority was still “I had to survive this for my family” so the reality and frustrations of the mastectomy came much later on.
What inspired you to apply to be a Nicola Jane model?
My underwear is very important now – but it didn’t used to be! Now underwear makes or breaks an outfit. In the early days I desperately wanted to wear bras like I’d used to – small dainty straps, pretty lace or fabric, balconette. And even though I realised this was not possible it didn’t stop me wanting them. I had to stop myself from buying them – just in case they did work which of course they wouldn’t. In the early days I don’t think I really understood what job the bras had to do and how they worked. I could have done with a specialist to fit and explain this to me. Nicola Jane helped me find styles that were not only practical but also feminine and pretty. I felt so much more confident having found styles that fitted well. The hospital had shown me a few catalogues but I was cynical that the models were not mastectomy clients. When I discovered Nicola Jane with the real live models I thought “fab”!
Any words of advice you can give from your journey?
10 months after the end of treatment, I felt as if I had arrived. I had finally accepted the situation and what had happened to me and accepted the inconveniences of my altered body without my right breast and altered image with very little hair. This summer I discovered I was even able to get changed on the beach without feeling incredibly conspicuous. It had seemed a very long journey (much longer than I’d thought or expected it to be), painstakingly slow most of the time, painful, upsetting, frightening. During this time so many things had happened and been brought into question BUT I had coped – I had been on a journey and I am a changed person because of it. But that’s not all bad. Now I feel I can take on new challenges, I have found my energy and optimism again and I can be bright about the future, and that is because I look at life and time and priorities differently. How lucky am I that all I have to worry about is that I have only one breast. Or I might put on some weight because of the tamoxifen tablets. I am alive and I’ve so much to live for. I have a little book by the side of my bed and most evenings I write down what I have seen or experienced that makes me just so glad to be alive. I feel so lucky to have got this far and whilst ever this life continues, however long this is, life is for living.
My advice would be take each tiny step a step at a time The professionals will tell you what you need to know, you can only take on a bit at a time. Don’t expect too much of yourself. Speak to the others in hospital share your details but remember no two people’s situations are the same. I made some lifelong friends in hospital, we went through the same things at the same time. We became our own self-help group and went to yoga (provided free of charge by the breast care unit) together. This weekly event helped us to grow and share and support. In yoga I found a spiritual calm, a different way to measure things, it also made me have me-time and the permission to love myself and to grow once more. The teacher was fantastic, there was no pressure whatsoever. Let your friends and family do what they want for you, everyone’s interpretation of a situation is different, and together they will make a whole. For example, one friend came to see me every week in her lunchtime and brought her own sandwich and one for me. Another would always send a text just before my chemo was due, to show she had remembered and cared. I had lots of visitors each helping me fill some of my time and keeping me up to date with their news and happenings. Talk and share.
A bit of fun!
Who would play you in a movie?
Cameron Diaz she is funny and sexy and laughs alot.
If you would have a superpower, what would it be?
Healing hands to offer hope to the world.
Who would you invite to the ultimate dinner party?
I would have to have Graham Norton and the tipping chair. Meryl Streep and Julie Walters to tell all the secrets of filming Mama Mia. Daniel Craig or Colin Firth just to look at and Chris Evans for stories, wit and humble pie.
Jackie's Entry Photo
Jackie and family
At the races
Jackie and husband Chris
Modelling 7005 camisole with wrap dress
Modelling 9184 swimsuit
Front cover shot with Sue
Modelling V007 vest top in NEW raspberry
Modelling best selling 423P bra in skin
Modelling 7013 Soft Lace Bra in black
Modelling NEW 7026 camisole and briefs