Radiant Sue - from saddler to shoot
Tell us a bit about yourself
I have been happily married for the second time for nearly 20 years. I have a horse – a forest bred new forest pony who is very loveable but extremely naughty!! How would I describe myself? My husband’s first reaction was – ‘young at heart’ or ‘fit, friendly extrovert’ – but he is biased!!!
What is your current occupation?
I have been a director of an arts centre; a college lecturer and head of a performing arts department; and the last ten years of my working life was in educational research – I am now retired.
What's your dream job?
Probably a re-run of my life, although I had opportunities to be a professional dancer and part of me would have liked to have fulfilled that dream.
Do you have any hobbies or interests?
Too many really. When I retired I applied to be a new forest volunteer ranger because I use the forest every day with my horse and feel so lucky to live in such a fabulous environment. The volunteer rangers engage with the public and man information units, lead rambles, do conservation work, and many other interactive duties. I also ride daily and take part in local riding competitions. I also decided to go to an art class, really because my friends said I needed a more relaxed hobby after contracting cancer, and so I paint in oils with little talent but great enthusiasm. When I retired I took up golf and tennis, as my husband played intermittently. I really enjoy this outdoor activity, and it’s a great social activity. I also enjoy studying languages, and am now adding Italian to my rusty French and Spanish. I should add that housework is almost a thing of the past – or a duty for tomorrow – far too busy!!!
Any unusal facts about yourself?
A fun piece of information that crops up on my CV is my elephant riding experience in an American Circus in Rome - 4 months to gain an Equity card. This goes back to 1975, but there are lots of fun tales to tell such as the headline in a British newspaper that read – Jumbo traffic jam in Rome – can elaborate on this tale if it is of interest!!!
Biggest achievement in life to date?
Getting to the great age of 60 – only modern medicine and good doctors have allowed me such a privilege.
Tell us a bit about your breast cancer journey
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2006 at the age of 55 which resulted in a mastectomy and lymph node removal. After having the surgery I was initially quite shocked and very saddened to lose a breast which I hadn’t really thought about before, but I actually quite liked my body and my breast pre surgery. I was happy with the breasts I had, but I’m grateful still to have one and modern prostheses allow you to look completely normal.
How did you feel when you were first diagnosed?
Very scared. All my family have died from some form of cancer. I really wanted the mastectomy. The surgeon was very apologetic when he said I had to have a mastectomy and that a lumpectomy was not possible. Ironically I was pleased. I wanted it all cut out, I wanted to get rid of any possibility of having cancer left in my body.
Who did you turn to when you first found out and who helped you the most throughout??
I didn’t turn to anyone initially as my husband was working in Mexico and his mother had died 2 days before I found the lump. My husband returned to the UK for his mother funeral but on the day he returned I had been to the GP and had an appointment that evening with the oncologist. In a time frame – my husband’s mother died on the Thursday’ I found the lump on the Saturday, went to the GP on the Tuesday, my husband returned from Mexico on the Tuesday to escort me to the oncologist who took biopsies; the results came through on the Thursday (not at all good) and I was operated on, on the Friday (the day of my husbands’ mother’s funeral). Quite a week!!! But I am very lucky to have my husband as my best friend and confidant. He also knew the ins and out of cancer diagnosis, having been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1995 and having a successful stem cell transplant in 1997.
What was your main worry?
Getting rid of the cancer, and also coming through the anaesthetic unscathed.
Any words of advice you can give from your journey?
Cancer really makes you appreciate each day. You want a healthy future, but the most important thing is the here and now and the mundane things in life which make you happy. Breast cancer makes you incredibly emotional initially. My advice is don’t fight it, go with it and allow your friends into your emotions, but plan a path out, back to normality. I have found I am a stronger but more empathetic person because of my breast cancer experience, but I have become much more practical and active rather than pensive and analytical. Live for today, and hope for many more tomorrows – despite a good friend dying of breast cancer several years ago, many many more people survive the ordeal as treatments and early diagnosis become more effective – so enjoy every day that you feel well, and luxuriate in your family and friends.
What inspired you to apply to be a Nicola Jane model?
I applied to be a model as I really think it's great that Nicola Jane use real ladies to display their products. After going through surgery and having cancer, I am so grateful to be alive, when I saw the models from 2011 they looked so happy, I felt inspired and thought 'why not apply?' Taking part in the photo shoot and being a model really proved to
A bit of fun!
Who would play you in a movie?
If you would have a superpower, what would it be?
To turn all aggression into love; to think of others before yourself; to turn all humiliation into laughter and to feed all humanity. And... renewable electricity forever.
Who would you invite to the ultimate dinner party?
My husband first and foremost, a great painter such as Degas, a musician such as Tchaikovsky, a great dancer such as Ulanova, and a great writer or poet such as Keats.