• Julia Sidwell

Going topless saved my life!

Colette will be forever grateful that she went topless sunbathing on holiday. Not because she got a great tan, but because as she rubbed in suncream she felt a lump that turned out to be breast cancer... Discovering it early meant she could undergo surgery and treatment, saving her life. We shared her story in The Sun newspaper.

breast cancer the sun newspaper real life story

A mum-of-two who has always been a sun worshipper never thought that sunbathing topless would end up saving her life, but that's just what happened when she was on holiday in the Canary Islands.

Colette Jameson was away with her ex-partner when she decided to make the most of the sunshine and go topless on a secluded part of the beach. She took off her bikini top to rub in some sun cream, and as she did she felt a lump in her right breast.

Colette from Glasgow, Scotland, said “Because I was fit and healthy and had no history of cancer in my family I thought nothing of it. I decided I’d get it checked out when I got home but I certainly wasn’t worried.”

So Colette, who had been a big sunbed fan when she was younger, went ahead and soaked up the sun’s rays to develop a golden tan.

“During the rest of the holiday I kept touching the lump to check it was still there. It was a bit sore, which made me worry even less because I thought that if it were serious, it wouldn't hurt."

When Colette returned to the UK she went to see her doctor and waited seven weeks for a mammogram.

“After my mammogram a consultant felt the lump. He had been a breast cancer doctor for 25 years so when he said it was something more sinister than just a cyst, I prepared myself for bad news. I had a biopsy and days later, I was told I had breast cancer.”

After another mammogram and an ultrasound, cancer was also detected in two of Colette's lymph nodes under her right arm.

“My ex was in shock and so was I, but I knew I had to stay positive.”

Colette then broke the news to her daughters, Tanya, 28, and Hayley, 26, before undergoing a lumpectomy and having the lymph nodes removed. Then she started 18 weeks of chemotherapy – one session every three weeks. Being a woman who takes pride in her appearance, Colette struggled when she lost her long, thick blonde hair.

“I'm the kind of person who doesn't like to go out without wearing lippie and mascara, so it was difficult seeing my looks change. If I went out I wore a wig that looked like my own hair, or a headscarf, and when my hair grew back a George Clooney grey colour, I was quick to dye it blonde again!”

“Other than the ordeal of losing my hair, the chemo wasn't too awful but the radiotherapy really took it out of me. Just the ten-mile drive to the hospital was enough to wipe me out at that point. Even so, I remained positive and took each day as it came. I believe having the right attitude can really help when going through something as traumatic as cancer.”

Eventually, in 2011, Colette was told the cancer was gone.

“I was delighted and my ex and I returned to the same holiday destination in the Canary Islands where I first found the lump. Some people thought that was weird but it just felt like the right thing to do. We had a great time celebrating, but months afterwards my ex and I separated. The stress and strain of the previous year had pushed him to the brink. He was constantly worrying and couldn’t bear the thought of losing me. I completely understood and thanked him for being my rock throughout everything.”

Now Colette is fit and healthy and taking part in Breast Cancer Care’s annual Scottish Fashion Show on the 22nd September at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow alongside 21 other models who have had a diagnosis of breast cancer.

“I love fashion and was thrilled to be chosen to get involved with the charity's fashion show. I’m keen to do what I can to raise awareness of breast cancer. I was quite breast aware before my diagnosis and would examine myself regularly, so I was really surprised when I discovered I had cancer.

“I want to urge all women to check themselves regularly and be seen by a doctor as soon as possible if they find something suspicious. I feel so lucky to have found the lump when I did. If I'd never gone topless sunbathing, then I might never have found it.”

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