Checking my breasts saved my life

Tuesday, 2 October 2018


In October 2015, Katrina Turner from Ballycastle was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 35 years old.  Katrina, who is a nurse working in Belfast, caught her cancer early thanks to carrying out her own breast check.  During her treatment, Katrina was supported by Friends of the Cancer Centre and today, she is determined to share her experience to encourage more people – men and women – to check their breast regularly.  This is Katrina’s story. 


“My nursing background has encouraged me to be aware of changes to my body and I have been checking my breasts regularly for years.  It’s a habit that I know saved my life as it was during one of my checks that I felt a lump.  My consultant said I was lucky to have found the lump because it was on the inner side of the breast, towards the breast bone and was deep into the tissue.  It was unbelievably scary to find out I had cancer, but I know that if I hadn’t been self-checking I may not have found that lump until I began to feel unwell.


“Telling my family and friends was incredibly difficult and nobody could believe that I could have breast cancer so young.  I was determined to beat my cancer from the very start and that positivity helped those around me too.  They were all really supportive and having that network around me helped me get through some really tough days.”


The nurse becomes the patient

“I had surgery and weeks of radiotherapy as part of my treatment, which meant I spent quite a lot of time at the Cancer Centre in Belfast.  Even as a nurse who is familiar with a hospital environment, I felt really nervous going to the Cancer Centre as I was now on the other side as a patient.  It’s strange as you expect it to be a really clinical place, but it is one of the friendliest places I have ever been.  The staff are incredible and everywhere you go you are met with a smile.  To have that warmth and positivity was such an encouragement and really helped me through my treatment. 


“Friends of the Cancer Centre has a big part to play in making the Cancer Centre such a welcoming place.  The charity does so much to support everyone who comes through the hospital, but it really hit me how much it does to support those with breast cancer.  From funding Northern Ireland’s only Breast Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist, purchasing Northern Ireland’s only 3D Imaging System to help women going through reconstruction, to providing financial aid to those who need a little extra support and much, much more.  The extent of the charity’s work is incredible and everything it does really does make a difference to you when you are a patient." 


5 minutes could save your life

“It was during my treatment that I came across Friends of the Cancer Centre’s fantastic 7 Step Shower Check Hanger which encourages people to check their breasts on a regular basis.  It’s a waterproof hanger - similar to a hotel do not disturb sign - that you can place in your shower as a helpful reminder to carry out a breast check once a month, every month.  It has an easy to follow, step by step guide on how to carry out a self-examination and outlines some of the things you should look out for.  The hanger and the message behind it really resonated with me as since being diagnosed it has been my mission to make more people – women and men – more aware of how important breast checks are.  I can’t encourage everyone enough, please check your breasts regularly. It could save your life.”


Giving back

“The care and support I received at the Cancer Centre was incredible.  When you’re on the other side as a patient you get to really understand and appreciate the difference Friends of the Cancer Centre makes and the charity provided crucial support to me during my treatment. That’s why I wanted to raise money to support its wonderful work and last summer I organised a Big Day Out which raised over £5,000 for the charity.  It feels great to be able to something positive and I’m proud to play an active part in supporting many other patients like me. 


“Today, I’m doing really well and I’m proud of how far I’ve come.  I still have to take a hormone tablet every day for the next five years, but that’s nothing in the grand scheme of things.  Most importantly life is getting back to normal.  I’m back at work doing the job I love and enjoying all the great things and people in my life."


You can keep up with Katrina's story by following her on Instagram @Katrina_kicking_cancer or following her blog  


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and there is no better time to start regularly checking your breasts. It takes less than five minutes, once a month, and is a key pro-active step you can take to detect any possible changes in your breasts. Why not follow Katrina’s advice using Friends of the Cancer Centre's step-by-step guide on how to carry out a self-examination, the 7 Step Shower Check Hanger - it might just save your life.


Friends of the Cancer Centre’s 7 Step Shower Check Hanger is available here

View all News Stories

We’re always in need of volunteers to help in our office, at events or in their own local community, so if you have time to spare and would like to get involved, please get in touch to find out more.