Andrea Graham is enjoying a new lease of life these days.
Four years ago she was diagnosed with cancer and underwent a mastectomy and hysterectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
But after taking part in Move Into Sport, the mother-of-two from Chester-le-Street is on the road back to full fitness.
The 43-year-old said she knew she was high risk for developing cancer as one of her grandmothers suffered from ovarian cancer, one of her uncles died from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a rare form of lymphatic system cancer, and other members of her family have had skin, bowel and prostate cancer.
She said: “It’s something I always made a joke about, it was on my mind but not something I got too hung up on.
“Both my mother and I were tested for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene which is often a sign that you can develop breast and ovarian cancer but we don’t have it. “However because so many of our close relatives have had cancer in one form or another I had a hysterectomy and my mum had her ovaries removed.”
Yet it was still a shock for Andrea to be diagnosed with the disease.
In August 2010, aged 39, she noticed a lump on her left breast and was experiencing some pain.
She said: “At first I put it down to the fact I had a breast reduction operation but then thought better of that and decided to make an appointment at the doctor.
“Because of my family history I was quite insistent which meant I was seen straight away.”
Andrea had a mammogram and an ultrasound at the University Hospital of North Durham and was told she had the most aggressive form of breastcancer.
She said: “I was told cancer can be graded on a scale of one to five – the results of mine came back as a five rating, which was terrifying.
“My way of dealing with it was to find out what the options were and act swiftly.”
Four weeks after her first GP appointment she began a programme of chemotherapy. Andrea also underwent a mastectomy on her left breast and had her lymph nodes removed.
“I had every side effect from severe sickness, mouth ulcers and no appetite to hair loss, palpitations, bone ache and pins and needles,” she added.
Andrea petitioned to have a hysterectomy which she underwent in January 2012, followed by another mastectomy in December of the same year to prevent the breast cancer returning.
Andrea returned to work less than a month after her chemotherapy ended but was physically at a low ebb.
She decided to take up exercise to get fit again and help her recovery and heard about Move into Sport beginners’ running classes from a friend with Easington Hares Running Club.
The programme is aimed at people who are either not active enough, overweight or have a family history of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
She said: “I was still determined to get fit but had to be very careful at first not to overdo it.
“Running was something I thought I would never do but always wanted to and thanks to Move into Sport’s beginners’ programme with Easington Hares I have thoroughly enjoyed it and am rather proud of myself! It gives me a real buzz and I am hooked.”
When Andrea’s 12 week award winning Move into Sport beginners’ course concludes, she intends to keep running.
“I am over the moon with the results,” she said.
“What could be better than being in the fresh air and feeling fit and healthy? And socially the other ladies in the class are so supportive.”
Now Andrea is just 12 months away from getting the all clear which comes after five years in remission.
“When my all clear comes next year I intend to be on holiday,” she said.
Kaye Stephenson, who started the running sessions four years ago and works for Durham County Council as a sports development officer, said: “Given Andrea’s experience with breast cancer she is an inspirational figure and very determined.
“I feel proud when I see what a difference my sessions have made to people and the impact it has on their lifestyles.
“Going from being sedentary to active and becoming role models for their own friends and family is such a huge motivation too as it has an effect on society as a whole.
“We are looking for people who do not consider themselves runners but who are looking for a way of getting fit.”
The club is offering 12 week adult beginners running sessions, building basic fitness and running technique, helping you to progress from the couch to 5K.
All those completing the course of 12 sessions will receive free entry to the Race for Life worth £15.
For more information contact Kaye Stephenson, on 03000 266 339 or 07825430324, or alternatively email firstname.lastname@example.org