Posted by: Admin | June 23, 2012

The Saturday Interview 23 – Fiona

When Consultant Paediatrician, Fiona, first contacted me to put herself forward for this project, she said: “I’m approaching 50 and after major surgery last year to remove my breast tissue because of my breast cancer risk, I seem to have a whole new outlook on life and am fitter and healthier and happier than I have ever been.” That sounded to me like a good project50 outlook, plus I was intrigued to find out more about this elective surgery.

Meeting her at her welcoming family home, I can see that Fiona is still involved in the maelstrom that is family life with three children living at home. I wonder how she copes with juggling exams, swim meets with her sporty youngsters and a high powered career.

“I’m very organised,” she tells me, “and possibly tending a little bit towards having OCD…”  she tells me that her family tease her about the cans in her cupboard needing to face the same way. This preference for control goes some way to explaining the radical decision she made in 2010 when her yearly mammogram led to blood tests and a biopsy which revealed she carries a variant of the breast cancer gene that puts her at high risk of developing the illness.

Fiona’s mother and grandmother both had breast cancer and, as a doctor, she made sure she was fully informed about her options.

“I felt I wanted to be in control of my own destiny, not wait around wondering whether this could be the year when I develop cancer,” she explains. This lead to her opting in April 2011 to have a preventative double mastectomy and reconstruction using tissue from her legs.

“I’m aware that some people might find my decision odd, even shocking,” she says, “but for me having that worry lifted has given me a new lease of life. I hadn’t realised how living with the increased risk had been affecting me psychologically.”

For Fiona, reaching 50 is a time for change, for adapting to the children needing her less and looking forward to the time when their needs don’t fill her life rather than dreading it. That’s a balance many of us empty-nesters struggle with.

“I’m a glass half full sort of person. I make an effort to do things and I’m full of energy after my surgery.”

She channels that energy into sports. She was due to take part in the Great North Swim today which, unfortunately, has had to be cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. However, not to be deterred, she plans to plead with the organisers to squeeze her in tomorrow when she takes her youngest son to his event. The family is raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care – if you would like to donate to this worthy cause, you can do so via the family’s “Just Giving page” here. I don’t fancy the Official’s chances once this determined lady puts her case forward!

So what does the future hold for Fiona now that the spectre of breast cancer has been removed?

“I’m involved with a project concerning children who are HIV positive,” she tells me, “and I’m looking forward to moving my career in that direction.”

I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Fiona all the best as she moves forward with her life. More photos from her 50 Facing 50 Portrait Exhibition shoot can be seen on yesterday’s post on the Celebrate Life! photoblog.

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