Published: 15:25, 16 November 2019
| Updated: 15:34, 16 November 2019
Not many people would consider themselves lucky to have been diagnosed with cancer.
But that’s exactly how Lis Blandon, who lives in Lynsted, near Sittingbourne, feels after a routine screening check picked up her breast cancer before she could even feel a lump.
The NHS breast screening service at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, provided by East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, is 30 years old this month and Lis joined staff, dignitaries and other former patients for a reception at the unit to help celebrate.
The 65-year-old said: “I was so lucky they caught it so early.
“Can you imagine if we didn’t have the screening programme, just how many women would end up dying from cancer?
“How lucky am I to have been born when I was and to have this service available to me?”
Lis, a retired civil servant, underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy after having an operation to remove the lump from her breast.
The treatment was gruelling and she ended up back in hospital with sepsis after her fourth round of chemo but she says she never considered herself to be ill.
She said: “Apart from the sepsis, I felt fine.
“The operation didn’t bother me and the chemo made me feel awful but I knew what that was – it was down to the drugs, not because I was ill.
“I just saw it as something I had to go through and everyone at the hospital was so encouraging and caring.
“My abiding memory of the treatment is laughter and I am so thankful I have been able to meet so many wonderful people because of my diagnosis.”
'Can you imagine if we didn’t have the screening programme, just how many women would end up dying from cancer?', Lis Blandon
She added: “I get very defensive when people criticise the NHS because I have received such fantastic care and I think it’s astonishing how many people have been involved in looking after me, and how brilliant their care has been.”
Lis is still in touch with her breast cancer nurse, Nessy Potter, and credits her with helping her get through the chemotherapy side effects.
“I couldn’t have done it without her,” she said.
“After the first dose of chemo I felt a bit rough, but after the second I was so sick.
“I said to her I didn’t think I could do another four rounds and she said to just try and do another two so I would have had four in total, as that is what used to be the standard.
“She told me I could always stop it if I felt too bad and that meant I felt in control again and I knew I could do it.
“I focused on the fact it was just a few months and then it felt much more manageable.”
She also remembers the kindness of the staff who told her she had cancer – consultant radiologist Dr Sarah Moorhouse and nurse Susan Wilson.
Lis said: “I still remember their names because of their kindness.
“They went through it all so calmly and positively that I didn’t feel nervous or anxious. I had every confidence in them.”
After finishing chemotherapy, Lis had radiotherapy and then regular checks to make sure the cancer did not return.
She has now been signed off as officially cancer-free and is back to being screened every three years.
According to data from the department’s records, almost 40,000 women were invited to attend the breast screening unit in the past year – almost double the amount invited in its first year of operation in 1989 – and a total of 282 women were diagnosed with cancer following their screening appointment in the past year.
More by this authorChloe Holmwood