A brave cancer survivor who watched her husband and sister go through diagnoses is now a poster girl to encourage others to spot the signs.
Tina Barnett is helping to lead Cancer Research UK’s ‘spot cancer sooner’ campaign which tells stories of real women and how knowing their bodies saved their lives.
The 53-year-old discovered she had breast cancer at an early stage - but only after what happened to her sister, Marilyn Edwards.
The pair were on holiday in Spain in 2004 when Tina noticed that her sister’s breast was misshapen and puckered.
Tina said: “It was so bad it looked all twisted and pulled out of shape, but she had never mentioned it and had never been to the doctor’s. I asked her why, and she said it was because she was too scared.”
Her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and six years later, Tina spotted similar signs in her own body.
She now wants to use her own experiences to encourage other Warwickshire women to make sure they know their own bodies and can spot worrying changes.
Talking about her own diagnosis, Tina said she saw some dimpling in her breast as well as a pea-sized lump and knew “immediately what it was and what to do”.
“I went straight to the GP, told him about my lump and what had happened to my sister,” she said.
The early diagnosis meant she was able to have the lump removed rather than a mastectomy, and underwent months of treatment.
Tina, who works at Catermasters in Leamington, ran the Race for Life in 2012 with the names of friends and family with the illness on her back.
But in 2013 when she ran again, tragically had to add the name of her husband Paul who was diagnosed with lung cancer following a persistent cough that would not respond to antibiotics.
The 60-year-old electrician’s tumour is inoperable but Tina said celebrating life day by day keeps the family going, as well as spreading the word to help others check for signs in their own bodies.
“It was wonderful to celebrate his birthday with him because when he was first diagnosed we didn’t think he would make it,” said Tina.
“It is so important that people get to know their own bodies and aren’t afraid to discuss any changes. It saved my life.”
Posters supporting the campaign with real women are up across the Midlands with funny introductions pointing out people’s flaws before the hard-hitting message kicks in.
Martin Ledwick, head information nurse for Cancer Research UK, said: “Knowing what’s normal for your body gives you the edge, so you are more likely to spot unusual changes, and be able to get them checked out.
“It is important to act early in the fight against cancer. That means not being embarrassed to talk about your body. Spotting cancer in its early stages means it is usually much more vulnerable to today’s modern treatments.”
Visit www.spotcancersooner.com or contact a nurse on 0808 800 4040 for details.