Catherine's Story- Breast cancer treatment

As building work begins on our new Oak Cancer Centre in Sutton, Catherine Sharkey, Business Support Officer at The Royal Marsden shares her story and explains what this new centre will mean to patients when it opens its doors in 2022.

The Diagnosis

“I have worked for The Royal Marsden for three years, but last year I became a patient here too.

In September 2019 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and one of the tumours found was an aggressive form of breast cancer called HER2. I hadn’t had any symptoms and no family history, but a routine mammogram picked up abnormalities. The diagnosis was then quickly confirmed at my local hospital after a biopsy and ultrasound.

I was given the option of where I could receive treatment and, of course, I chose The Royal Marsden because I had no doubt that I would be well looked after.

I was transferred to Sutton under the care of Consultant Breast Surgeon Katherine Krupa and booked in for a mastectomy and a DIEP-flap reconstruction which I had last November. I began chemotherapy in the medical day unit on Christmas eve and radiotherapy in April this year.

catherine with her husband

The Oak Cancer Centre

Today I am doing well and feeling good and that is all thanks to the treatment and care I have received at this wonderful hospital.

When I found out about plans for The Oak Cancer Centre, I knew I wanted to be involved in championing this. One of the many exciting things for me are the improvements planned for the medical day unit, which delivers chemotherapy and other treatments which can be very draining and emotional. All the staff are incredible and make it a good experience, but sometimes you can be there for hours not being able to see the outside world. The new design will make the unit brighter and patients will have a lovely view of trees. It’s a small difference but it will make treatment so much easier.

Continuing cancer treatment

In November 2019, during surgery, it was discovered that the cancer had spread to one of my lymph nodes and this meant I was eligible to enter a randomised clinical trial called the POSNOC trial. This trial compares different ways of treating breast cancer, with the treatment you are given randomly selected. I was given chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The results of this trial could improve treatment for breast cancer patients in the future, and I am proud to be a part of it.

There is so much incredible research like this taking place at The Royal Marsden. The Oak Cancer Centre will bring all our world-leading researchers together under one roof. For patients to know that we’re bringing together over 400 of our researchers under one roof, working together developing new treatments, it will feel great and bring so much hope.

Catherine on the Banham Marsden March

Fundraising for The Royal Marsden

I not only want to spread the word about The Oak Cancer Centre but next year I will also be taking on The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity’s Banham Marsden March where all funds raised will be going towards this new centre. I have taken part with friends for the last three years, but this will be the first since diagnosis. The event has such a great atmosphere and it’s always emotional. This time it will feel even more so, and I cannot wait to cross that finish line.

My chemotherapy and radiotherapy have now finished but I still go into the hospital for check-ups. I recently had my first mammogram since treatment, and it was an overwhelming feeling to hear it was all clear.

The treatment and care I have received at the hospital over the past year has been exceptional. The opening of The Oak Cancer Centre will only make this experience better for patients like me. It also shows how The Royal Marsden is always striving to be better, and to make sure the hospital is there for everyone that needs it.  It is one of the many reasons why I am its biggest ambassador.

The treatment and care I have received at the hospital over the past year has been exceptional. The opening of The Oak Cancer Centre will only make this experience better for patients like me. It also shows how The Royal Marsden is always striving to be better, and to make sure the hospital is there for everyone that needs it.  It is one of the many reasons why I am its biggest ambassador."

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