When Rachel Gibson visited her GP nearly three years ago with back, hip and stomach pain, breast cancer was the last thing on her mind.
But after being referred to Ninewells hospital in Dundee for tests, she was shocked to discover not only that she had a tumour in her left breast, but that the cancer had spread to her right hip and spine.
Rachel, of Broughty Ferry, now 28, said: “I remember the doctor saying that they needed to get me through that weekend otherwise I wouldn’t even be strong enough to have treatment.
“Earlier that week I’d been in so much pain that I was crying in the shower. I’d felt so unwell for weeks so knowing what was actually wrong helped. I was only 26 but there was a risk I might even need a hip replacement so I had to stay off my feet. I don’t like to relive it as it was so hard. But as doctors actually knew what was wrong with me they could control things so it was better.”
Rachel endured a week of radiotherapy then went through six lots of chemotherapy. A night out with her sisters and best friends marked the final chemotherapy session on January 17 2014. Rachel now takes the breast cancer drug herceptin every three weeks.
And as Rachel’s strength has slowly returned she is determined to make every second count. Her boyfriend Adam Coats, 24, whisked her off to Paris for a romantic weekend away to mark the first anniversary of diagnosis and in spring 2015, Rachel and Adam took on a gruelling challenge, journeying to China to walk the Great Wall of China, raising an amazing £8,700 for the charity, Coppafeel.
Rachel, who works at a clothes boutique, was also chosen as VIP at Cancer Research UK’s first Race for Life Pretty Muddy in Dundee at the weekend.
She said “Cancer has changed me. Before I got cancer I was young and often lived life like I was invincible, like nothing could touch me. I could sometimes get caught up with the petty things. Now I’m more positive and embrace every single opportunity that comes my way. I was told I had cancer on Friday 13th. I couldn’t have had a worse day. It felt like a blur. I’m really close to my family so my mum and dad were there for me and so were my sisters, along with my boyfriend Adam- my rock. The night after I was diagnosed, my sisters came up to the hospital where we ate pizza and chatted, just like an ordinary Saturday night. A smile and a positive mind helps. I used to treat each chemotherapy session like a catwalk. I’d wear my best clothes, do all my make up and make an effort to look good. I bought a real hair wig from Ebay and I was able to style it to better suit me, that definitely helped.”
Health secretary Shona Robison also took part in event.
Shona said: “It’s a privilege to meet so many inspirational ladies at Pretty Muddy today. Cancer touches so many lives on a daily basis, and events like this bring together people from all walks of life to share in their determination to beat cancer.
“As a Government, we are committed to helping more people to survive cancer. Our new five to ten-year Cancer Strategy, published earlier this year, will serve as a blueprint for the future of cancer services in Scotland, improving the prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and aftercare of those affected by the disease.
“We’ll work closely with our partners, including the charity sector, to reduce the impact of cancer and achieve world-class cancer outcomes for the people of Scotland.”
Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life is a women-only series of 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy and marathon events which raises millions of pounds every year to help fund life-saving research.
Last year, around 1,856 people took part in Race for Life Dundee and raised more than £114,178.
Race For Life’s area events manager for Dundee, Angela Wilson said: “I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part in Pretty Muddy Dundee.
“The atmosphere was full of emotion with participants wearing signs on their backs declaring their reasons for taking part. Many will be remembering loved ones lost to cancer or celebrating the lives of people dear to them who have survived.”