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Manchester Foundation
Trust Charity

Mum’s life saved by early mammogram – now she’s helping others with breast cancer appeal

Monday 18th December 2023

WHEN mum-of-two Dawn Lomas looks on as her sons unwrap their gifts on Christmas Day, it’s another chance to embrace a special moment she almost lost.

This Christmas Dawn and her family will once again feel even more grateful for another year together – knowing that a fall into a plant pot, but more importantly a well-timed letter inviting her to an early mammogram, saved her life.

It was six years ago that Dawn spent a very anxious Christmas with her family – wondering if the biopsies taken from the lump in her breast would show she had cancer. A few days later – just before Christmas – she found out it was indeed the C-word she’d been dreading.

“Every Christmas I just think back to that time and realise I might not have been here without that mammogram,” said Dawn. “That’ll be the best Christmas present this year – knowing that I’m here to spend it with my family.”

Picture Caption: Dawn Lomas with her sons and husband celebrating Philip’s 21st birthday

Dawn has kindly agreed to publicly share her story for the first time to help promote the Build to Beat Breast Cancer Appeal – a lifesaving appeal which will fund a state-of-the-art National Breast Imaging Academy facility at the Nightingale Centre at Wythenshawe Hospital. The hospital is part of the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) family of hospitals. The Trust’s own Charity – Manchester Foundation Trust Charity – and Prevent Breast Cancer have teamed up to raise the remaining £1.8million needed to make the building a reality. It will train the breast clinicians of the future – plugging staff shortfalls and addressing the backlogs seen after the pandemic and other breast clinics in the region closing.

Not only is Dawn keen to promote the Appeal, she also feels strongly about mammograms playing an important part in early detection.

Dawn, who is 53, said: “I remember having a trip and fell into a large outdoor plant pot, which left me with a bruise on my left side. It was quite sore and still hurting a few weeks later.

“Then I received a letter inviting me to an early mammogram. At the time I was 47 years old and the usual age for scans was 50-plus, but this letter was part of a new trial that was running.

“Because I was still sore from my fall and then the letter arrived it just felt right that I went to the screening.”

Dawn, who lives in Bardsley, Oldham, with husband Mark and sons Philip and Robert, said: “I had not been particularly worried when I was called back after my initial mammogram, as I had thought maybe there was something still not right after my fall.

“When I attended the Nightingale Centre at Wythenshawe Hospital they said my left side was fine but they’d spotted something on the right breast. I asked ‘are you sure it’s the right one?’ The radiographer checked the scans and explained it was definitely the right breast causing some concern. I had a biopsy taken that day and returned for the results on 18th December, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my right breast. More biopsies were then taken to establish the extent of the cancer. The results of these biopsies would be available on 28th December.

“It took a while to calm down after I was told – everyone reacts differently to being told they have cancer, and no reaction is right or wrong. I wasn’t upset. So many thoughts were going through my mind.”

Dawn’s main concerns were for her family and how they would feel about her diagnosis.

Picture Caption: Dawn Lomas with eldest son Philip

She said: “My first worry was that my two sons, who were 14 and 16 at the time, would think I was dying if I got upset when I told them. So I knew I had to make sure that I was calm and prepared. I didn’t want them worrying.

“I normally host Christmas Day for family members and I was determined to still do that. My family and friends were really supportive throughout my treatment too.”

Dawn wanted things to be as normal as possible over the Christmas period. Being around people and the hustle and bustle distracted her from worrying about how serious it could be and what the next few months would hold.

Thankfully on 28th December Dawn received the news she’d wanted to hear – the cancer was a Stage 2 and therefore small enough to operate on.  It was most likely a survivable cancer. The family had a small celebration on New Year’s Eve, thankful the cancer was treatable, and on 3rd January 2018 Dawn had a lumpectomy at the Nightingale Centre.

“Everyone, all the staff, were just incredible,” said Dawn, who works at MFT Trust where she was treated.

“After my lumpectomy I was given some exercises to do to help prepare me for radiotherapy. A session with the physiotherapy team at the Nightingale Centre allowed me to ask lots of questions – walking and light exercise helps with recuperation, but it would be a while before I could play my favourite hobby squash again. Lots of great practical guidance was also offered in that session.”

In mid-February 2018 Dawn started four weeks of radiotherapy treatment. Catching her cancer early meant the treatment she received was not as harsh as what is required to treat bigger, later stage cancers and she did not need chemotherapy.

“I’m just so grateful the cancer was caught when it was,” said Dawn. “Early diagnosis saved my life.

“Early diagnosis is such a huge part of surviving breast cancer. I’m so grateful it was caught in time and I’d urge everyone who gets an invite for a mammogram to attend the appointment.”

Dawn now knows to treasure each moment and is so grateful that her early detection and treatment meant she will once again be able to enjoy Christmas with her family this year.

She said: “December 1st the tree goes up straight away. And I think I just embrace things more now. I appreciate each moment and I’m so appreciative of each and every day.

“And that’s why I’m supporting the Build to Beat Breast Cancer Appeal – so more women can have Christmases with their families like I do.”

Dawn is so passionate, she has done her own fundraising for the Build to Beat Breast Cancer Appeal – even stepping out of her comfort zone to brave a cold water dip in June run by Manchester Foundation Trust Charity. She’s also held bake sales at work and other events to fundraise and help more women like her.

Picture Caption: Dawn in the lake at the Summer Solstice Swim

It’s people like Dawn that will help the Charity get to its £1.8million target.

Angela Rowe, Deputy Director of the Charity, said: “The National Breast Imaging Academy will train the breast clinicians of the future. And they will be the key to unlocking shorter waiting times, improved outcomes and increased survival rates. Put simply – if you donate to this Appeal, you’re helping to save lives.

“We appreciate Christmas is a financially straining time for families. Which is why if you cannot give to the Appeal this Christmas, perhaps you could take part in one of our events and make it your 2024 New Year’s Resolution to do something to help increase breast cancer survival rates?

“All the pennies and pounds add up. So please visit our Build to Beat Breast Cancer page to find out more about the Appeal, watch the video, make a donation or sign up to an event. You’ll be helping mums just like Dawn to enjoy more time with their families.”

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