Laura, can you tell us about your initial diagnosis?
I’d started training to be a veterinary nurse in September 2014 and in March 2015 was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had to have a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Sarah was my clinical coach at the time, teaching me skills and assessing me in practice. When the college suggested I take a year out for treatment, Sarah and I were determined to keep going with my training – she helped me through it all. I would sit in chemotherapy and write assignments, because I didn’t want cancer to win. I absolutely love my job and it’s what kept me going. Sarah could easily have encouraged me to give up, like the college – it would’ve saved her a lot of hassle – but she didn’t.
Sarah (left): Laura was my first student! Her diagnosis was so unexpected but I thought, “I can still do this, we can do this.”
Laura (centre): I wouldn’t have got through it
without Sarah putting in the extra hours – she’s the reason I got my qualification when I did.
And how did Sheli help you?
Laura: She dragged me through recovery. At times, I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. It was awful.
Sheli (right): I met Laura when I joined the same practice. I’d never met anybody so young with cancer before. I asked lots of questions and realised we had a similar perspective on life: if you want something, you’ve got to go out and get it.
Laura: When I started to feel better, Sheli asked if I wanted to do a half marathon with her, then encouraged me to train every week. I’d say, “Let’s just do a few miles today” and Sheli would say, “No we’re doing eight miles – it’s on the schedule!” On our second half marathon, she dragged me over the finish line.
How did the secondary breast cancer diagnosis come about?
Laura: A few years later, I was
working as a vet in India, which I loved, when I started to experience back pain. Eventually it led to my diagnosis with secondary breast cancer, which is incurable, and within 24 hours I was on a flight back to the UK. It was all so quick I couldn’t really process things at that point. When I arrived back, the first two people I saw were Sheli and Sarah, and it put a smile on my face. It made me feel at home again. They helped me fundraise to bring my dog Toby back from India – it makes such a massive difference to have him here!
Sheli: We just thought, “Right, what are we going to do this time, how can we help?” We know we can’t overcome it because it’s not going away, but we want to do something positive.
Laura: For every bad thing that’s happened to me, I want something good to happen. So after my terrible diagnosis – we’re making up for it, raising money and awareness.
What has it meant to you to have Sarah and Sheli’s support?
Laura: Although cancer has been s**t, it’s brought a lot of good into my life. I didn’t realise people would be as good as they have been. Here are two people who I wasn’t originally that close to who are now my best friends.
Why did you want to be involved in this campaign?
Sarah: Hopefully it will help people by showing them how to support their friends. Stay positive – that’s what we always say. You need a good support network to get through these things.
Laura: Everyone’s been absolutely amazing. I want people to know that cancer is not as scary as it sounds, and there is help out there.
Interview: Sophie Hines / Images: Coliena Rentmeester / Styling: Chloe Forde / Hair: Ben Cooke / Make-up: Karina Constantine