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Catherine graces the catwalk at Breast Cancer Care's glamorous charity fashion show

October 04, 2019 02:45 PM

Our amazing pizza counter colleague Catherine Gallagher looked so glamorous when she took to the catwalk at the Breast Cancer Care Fashion Show in London.

As part of our Tickled Pink campaign which partners with the charity, Catherine joined 31 other catwalk models who've had a breast cancer diagnosis to take part in the annual show, which raises money for vital breast cancer research and life-changing care.

Catherine, who's 63 and a grandmother of seven, finished breast cancer treatment 26 years ago. She says it was an amazing day – and one she'll never forget.

She said: "It was simply awesome. I was smiling the whole day – so much so that I got face ache! It really was a dream come true. I'm so thankful that I was given this opportunity.

"I was so nervous at first at the thought of going on the catwalk, but everyone was so lovely. It was a really long day and very hectic, but one which I'll never forget."

Catherine's aunt Rita Brown – who is in her 80s – and school friend Gail Diaz watched the afternoon show, while Rick, Catherine's husband of 42 years, enjoyed the evening performance.

"They all loved it," said Catherine. "My husband was so, so proud of me. Everyone at the store have been very supportive too."

Catherine, who works at our Farnborough store, modelled in four different categories – pyjamas, leather, special occasions and evening wear. And she says she loved every minute of it.

She said: "I've learnt to accept the changes in my body since I had breast cancer. I have to choose my clothes carefully with those changes in mind, always. Because of my reconstruction I'm flabby under my arm from the flap so can't wear sleeveless tops or dresses that are loose around the armpit. I have scars and no cleavage so can't wear anything low cut.

"I'm unhappy about seeing my naked body in the mirror BUT I'm here. I've never thought why me? I've always been active and love keeping myself fit."

Catherine, who's worked for Asda for 23 years, says at first she found it difficult taking about her breast cancer, but is now happy to give her support and raise awareness.

She said: "Since my diagnosis, my outlook on life is to live it to the fullest and take nothing for granted. The saying you never know what's round the corner rings so true. It was a wake-up call to me that you are not invincible. It makes you look at life differently.

"I see my experience as something we needed to deal with – no big deal we just got on with it. I'm extremely fortunate that the treatment I received was the absolute correct one for me. I cannot thank the NHS and my medical team enough for everything they did to prolong my life.

"Fortunately my four boys seem not to have been affected by my diagnosis and treatment. I was a housewife and my husband worked shifts. We carried on our family life as routinely as we could during that time."

At the time of her chemotherapy treatment, Catherine's late mother was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus.

She said: "This meant that as she was undergoing her treatment she was unable to help me as much as she'd like and vice versa, but I had some amazing friends and neighbours who helped with school and nursery drop off and pick up as my boys were 13, 11, nine and four at the time.

"Mount Vernon Hospital offered a complementary course of treatment which included aromatherapy and the Alexander Technique. Both of them had a huge impact on my recovery. I saw them as my little treats, whilst going through a horrid time. I took Tamoxifen for six years following my chemo and radiotherapy and I've been discharged from hospital check-ups for many years."

She has this advice to anyone who has found an unexpected lump in their breasts:

"Listen to your bodies. If something doesn't feel right get it checked, even if it's just for peace of mind. You know your own body better than anyone else.

"For months following my recovery I was back and forth to my GP for reassurance. I constantly worried that any kind of symptom was my cancer returning. It took many years before I was able to relax and rid myself of that worry.

"Family members, friends, neighbours will feel useless and will want to help you in whatever way they can. Let them. Things like shopping, cleaning, school pick-ups etc. I believe it helps make them feel involved and able to deal with and understand the situation as well as taking away a small proportion of the disruptional worries your diagnosis has bought.

"I'm a 26-year breast cancer survivor and that makes me feel very proud and privileged."