'I believe in talking about it': Marian shares her breast cancer experience to help others

October 16, 2020

As part of our Tickled Pink campaign, Asda Ayr colleague Marian Jardine writes about her breast cancer diagnosis, how the support of friends and family gave her strength and how she now uses her experience to help others...

It was in 2010 when I discovered a lump on my right breast. When I found the lump I thought 'hmm, that's not right' because I did check myself often and knew it was different.

Automatically I went to my doctor. I was seen to quite quickly and within two to three weeks it was diagnosed as breast cancer.

My options were mastectomy or lumpectomy and I chose a mastectomy. I spent 11 and a half hours in theatre at Glasgow Royal Infirmary as I elected to have the reconstructive surgery at the same time. I had a few complications: I had blood poisoning, deep veined thrombosis in both legs and a blood infection, and I went into anaphylactic shock during one of my treatments. It ended up costing me a lot of time off work – two-and a half years – and I followed up with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

I wasn't so much traumatised at losing a breast as I was about losing my hair. My hair's always perfect, with different colours in it, so I found that quite difficult, but had to accept it. I got a nice wig and the hairdresser even put highlights in it for me, and that helped.

My treatment finished and then I had injections which are the same as the ones they give to men with prostate cancer. It was a trial, but I was quite happy to take part in it because my view is that if my experience can help anybody get through this and survive then it's worth it.

It was a long road and it changes you as a person – not just you, but also it impacts everyone around you – your family, friends and loved ones. I'm not as active or as fit as I could be. I've been diagnosed with lupus and a hiatus hernia. I'm the proof that unfortunately in some cases it isn't just a case of having your treatment and then being back as you were.

I've worked for Asda for coming up to 35 years. When I left school when I was 16 I came straight to Asda. The company was fantastic to me – I got great support and I still do. They have been fantastic. I've been back at work for seven years and I really enjoy work and what I do.

I started as a checkout supervisor in the old Ayr store. After that I had my two girls Megan and Emma and went part time. I've worked in customer services, general merchandising, music and video and now as an admin and cash office colleague.

Whether it was telephone calls, cards (I got well over 100 cards!), messages or beautiful gifts, my colleagues stayed in touch and it was amazing to know I had their support. Ayr's a small town and so I'm quite well known. I had brilliant support and I've got a fantastic network of friends and family.

I believe I'm here to tell the tale of my journey and help others. Years ago people didn't talk about cancer, but I believe in talking about it. I would like to think that if I can help just one person by talking about it then that's a good thing.

Early detection is the key point and if you do find anything usual get it checked.

Our community champion Karen was showing me the TikTok dance that Tom Malone has done to show everyone how to check themselves. It's a great wee dance and something I'll have to learn!

In the store there have been a couple of other colleagues who've been through the journey. I've tried to use my experience to reassure them and pass on my message of staying strong and having good thoughts.

I'm not an expert, I'm just someone who's been through the journey. I won't always have the best advice, but I can listen and can begin to imagine what you're going through. It's sometimes easier to talk to someone who's been on the same journey, as you can really relate to them.

My kids were only 13 and 17 when I was diagnosed – my eldest daughter had just signed up for university – so it was hard having to explain it to them. They ran out of the house when I told them as they were so shocked, but once you've got over hearing the word 'cancer' it becomes easier to talk about it, and that really helps.

I'm a positive person. I had my children to live for. I think a lot of my will to get through it it was my sheer determination and knowing there were people there helping me whether we were talking about it, laughing or crying.

My husband Paul had to care for me as well. We've been married for 33 years now. He did a great job getting me through it and did so much. I remember finding it really humbling when people would phone and ask about Paul as well as how I was doing. I thought that was nice and so important, because you don't do it on your own.

It's important not to forget about the men. Although the focus with breast cancer is usually on women I'd encourage men to check themselves as they can get breast cancer too.

I'm still here, still living, still breathing, still talking and that's the greatest gift. I've got a tattoo to remind myself what I've been through. I've got the cancer awareness ribbon on my wrist, as I wanted to remember it and remind myself how far I've come.

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