A diagnosis of cancer can affect people in many different ways as it is often a life-changing event for the individual and their family.
For mum-of-three Clare Thompson, she lost four stone in weight after she and her cousin were both diagnosed with the illness.
The mental health nurse was known by her colleagues as the “takeaway queen” and would regularly tuck into curries, kebabs and fried food to keep her going at work.
Having been overweight for most of her adult life, the 39-year-old’s unhealthy lifestyle led to her topping the scales at 17st 6lbs – a time when she would never exercise and only ever left the house to go to work.
In 2008, Clare noticed a pea-sized lump just underneath her left breast which rapidly grew to the size of a boiled egg. Following a biopsy, Clare and husband, Paul, 42, were shocked to discover that she had a rare form of cancer on her chest wall – a fibromyxoid sarcoma.
“I was so shocked and it put a lot of things into perspective,” explained Clare, who is mum to Josh, 15, Jacob, 10, and Olivia, eight.
“Thankfully I didn’t have to have chemotherapy and I just had a small operation to remove the tumour.”
Clare, of County Durham, was aware that she had been comfort eating and wanted to do something about her weight.
She said: “I started a healthy eating diet and lost three stone, but it didn’t do anything to change the way I thought about food and I just ended up putting it all back on again.”
On a typical day, Clare would have peanut butter on three thick pieces of toast for breakfast, followed by two large sandwiches with crisps and a chocolate bar for lunch.
For her evening meal, she would cook curry or spaghetti bolognese and often have two portions.
“I loved bread, rice and pasta and would often snack on fruit to try and balance out all of the bad stuff I was eating,” she explained.
“I’d regularly have wine with my meals too and I think I was having at least three bottles per week.
“One of my low points was on a family holiday in 2011 when I was too heavy to go horse riding with my daughter. It was such a horrible feeling and there’s nothing worse than disappointing your children.”
Clare’s husband, Paul, was also overweight. One of his colleagues had shed a lot of pounds on the All About Weight programme and the couple decided to give the scheme a go.
“We liked the concept of doing the diet together, but just never got round to signing up,” said Clare.
In November 2010 Clare’s cousin, Jackie, was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have a double mastectomy, another shock for the family to come to terms with.
“We were devastated and couldn’t believe that it was happening all over again,” said Clare.
“It’s amazing how much families come together in times of turmoil and when Jackie was diagnosed, I realised that it was the kick-start I needed to get myself into shape – life is just too short.”
Clare started on All About Weight’s rapid plan in March 2012, where she would combine nutritionally-balanced mealpacks with healthy food. At her first weigh-in, Clare had lost 12lbs, which was a great boost to her confidence.
“Once the weight started coming off, it just didn’t stop!” she said.
“All About Weight has changed the way I think about food and people don’t believe that I haven’t eaten one bit of bread since I started the diet. My portion sizes are much smaller than they used to be and I have a much healthier relationship with food.
“I absolutely love exercising now and Paul and I do so much with the kids. We go swimming, mountain biking and now walk rather than take the car and my blood pressure is the most stable it has ever been.
“My whole lifestyle has changed for the better and if it wasn’t for All About Weight, I wouldn’t have been able to wear a bikini on holiday – something I did for the first time in 23 years when I was on holiday in Crete.”
Husband Paul has also lost five stone on the diet and is enjoying the family’s new lease of life.
He said: “I think Clare looks amazing and it’s been great doing the diet together.
“We’ve had so many ups and downs in our lives but now we are much happier in ourselves and with our home lives. I piled on four stone after giving up smoking and suffered from a bad back as the weight of my belly was causing too much strain.
“Crunch time for me was when we had our health insurance medicals at work and mine came out at £200 more expensive than everyone else because I was so large. That’s a bitter pill to swallow.
“Before All About Weight I hated going out anywhere. Clare and I used to be the two fatties sat in the corner of a room trying to hide, but not anymore.”
All About Weight works through a combination of meal replacement mealpacks and healthy foods from an approved list. Clare and Paul have found their programmes easy to follow and importantly, has kept their overeating to a minimum.
Yesterday The Journal reported that hospital admissions for weight-loss surgery had risen by 13% in the North East in the last year.
Statistics by the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed that the number of overweight people admitted for bariatric surgery in the region increased from 728 in 2011-12 to 896 in 2012-13.
The North East regularly tops the polls for obesity levels and that is why The Journal collaborated with Nova International more than two years ago to launch our Great North Fitness Revolution.
The campaign is challenging everyone to make a pledge to get active and make the positive changes that will lead to a better quality of life.
For more information about All About Weight, call 0844 544 7773 or visit www.allaboutw8.co.uk