Leeds nurse who survived breast cancer: 'I would urge all women to check themselves'
Leeds nurse Cat Lyle was nearing the end of breast cancer treatment when she chose to have a preventative double mastectomy after discovering there was a risk of cancer coming back.
Single mum of two Cat is telling her story to raise awareness of breast cancer and to thank Leeds cancer charity Maggie's for supporting her.
Cat, 40, who found the lump herself, said: "I would encourage all women to check themselves."
Cat, who has done a fundraising parachute jump for Maggie's, was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2019 and had surgery to remove cancerous breast tissue followed by chemotherapy.
Cat, who is an intensive care nurse at LGI and St James's Hospital, thought she was set to be in the clear in early 2020.
"It turned out that there was a family history of breast cancer," she said.
"Unfortunately, I then tested positive for the BRCA2 gene just as I thought I was nearing the end of my treatment.
“That was last March just as the NHS and the rest of the UK started to go into the first lockdown.”
"I knew I needed to have a preventative double mastectomy because I couldn’t live with the risk of the cancer coming back.
"Having BRCA2 also means you are susceptible to having cancer in your ovaries, so I knew that I would need to have them removed at some point too.
"But I didn’t know when this could happen because operations were put on hold because of lockdown.
"I was clear with my doctors that I wanted a preventative double mastectomy.
"I’d just been through chemo and had been doing everything I could to get rid of the disease, so I needed to make sure it didn’t recur.”
Cat underwent a double mastectomy operation, ovariectomy and breast reconstruction in September 2020
She has now had her operations and completed a final infusion of antibody therapy treatment in March this year.
She said: “I couldn’t have done it without the support of the clinical psychologist, Emma, at Maggie’s.
"Even when I had my brave face on, Emma could see through my armour.
"She knew I needed to talk things out and process everything that I’d been through.
“Although I feel a bit battered and bruised, I’m pleased I’ve had my treatment and I’m on the mend emotionally, I’ve got my children and my future and life is looking a lot more positive.
“Even my daughter, Ellie-mae has said: “You’re happier now mummy. I still feel a bit guilty – because of Coronavirus and the rules around lockdown, the kids have seen a lot and they’ve had to come through it with me too.”
Cat said: “I decided to do a parachute jump as part of my 40th birthday celebrations and thought I would raise some money for Maggie’s.
"It’s my way of saying thank-you to everyone for all the support they have given me.
"You don’t know you need a Maggie’s until you really need it. I want to give something back so that others can benefit in the way I have.
"My treatment has been completed now, but I know Maggie’s will always be there to support me if I need it.”
Cat has spoken about the huge challenges of living with cancer during a pandemic while also having children at home full time.
Cat, of Wetherby, said: “I don’t know how many times I had to hide a tear-stained face from the kids, I would tell them I was just a bit hot.
“I was hiding how ill I was, the children just thought I’d had ‘a bit of an operation’.
“I felt so much ‘mummy guilt’, I felt like I was completely disorganised with home-schooling – it was just so much to deal with on my own.
“I could tell the kids were worried about me but speaking to Maggie’s psychologist really helped me by giving me the chance to talk about the things I really needed to talk about and get my life back on track.”
Cat did her 15,000 ft tandem parachute jump with a qualified instructor at Hibaldstow Airfield.
“I was absolutely giddy with excitement and I felt like I wanted to go straight back up and do it again," she said.
“I’ve had a tough couple of years and having completed my treatment for breast cancer just before we came out of lockdown was a wonderful feeling.
"I’ve made a really positive memory for my 40th birthday and it really does mark me jumping back into life.
"I’m back at work as an intensive care nurse and my children Ellie-Mae and Hugo are back at school.
"We’re happy that I’m through my treatment and happy to be out of lockdown too.
" I feel like I’ve been given a second chance and I’m making the most of life. It will be lovely to give something back to Maggie’s, because Maggie’s helped me to stay positive in the toughest of times.”
Amanda Procter, Centre Head at Maggie’s Leeds said: “Cat has been very courageous - not just in completing a parachute jump but throughout her cancer treatment and she has come through a lot.
"We are very grateful to her for fundraising for us and that will go towards us helping other people in her situation.
“Having cancer through the pandemic has clearly been utterly exhausting, draining and stressful for many families, but we have been supporting many people like Cat.
“We have been able to do this thanks to the continued generosity of our supporters, such as players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we are here with all people living with cancer, as well as family and friends.”
Since Maggie’s opened their first centre in 1996, the charity has developed a programme of support that is proven to help people with cancer and their loved ones take back control.
Built in the grounds of St James University Hospital, Maggie’s Leeds is a warm and welcoming place, with qualified professionals on hand to offer a programme of support.
Maggie’s Leeds relies on voluntary donations in order to be able to offer this high quality, professional support, including funding thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Go to: www.maggies.org/our-centres/maggies-leeds/