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What’s it like not only to work in cancer research, but also to be diagnosed with the illness yourself? Meet a woman who can tell us all about it: Dr Beatrice Howard. Prepare to be inspired

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INTERVIEW: Charlene Barton

The word inspirational is often used superfluously, but meet Dr Beatrice Howard and you soon discover its true meaning. With a lifelong passion for science, Connecticut-born Howard followed her now husband to London 20 years ago, becoming senior researcher for Breakthrough Breast Cancer – a charity that M&S has been in partnership with since 2001 – at its research centre in London’s Institute of Cancer Research. Despite being diagnosed with the disease twice, she continues to dedicate her life to the cause. Here, she talks about her motivation, incredible yoga routine and hope for a better outcome for patients.

“Being told I had breast cancer was devastating. It came out of nowhere, but there comes a point when you just have to make peace with the situation and deal with it. I was already working on this research project when I was first diagnosed and it made me revaluate everything in my life, especially my work, but I was able to look at what I was doing and think, yes, it fascinates me, and it’s also really important for other breast cancer patients.

“Six years ago, the breast cancer returned and despite a much tougher treatment regime, which included chemotherapy and radiation, I continued working and was able to get a really significant piece of research done. My work has kept me going in many ways.

“I see every day as a gift and I always try to use my time wisely. Every morning, I practise Ashtanga yoga for two hours and then cycle to and from work through Battersea Park. I love it – and yoga is really good for coping with the side effects of breast cancer.

“M&S has been a terrific partner for Breakthrough because we’re a relatively new charity. It helped us get the word out and reach a target audience for fundraisers and supporters. The post-surgery

“With more and more treatment
options, it’s a time to be hopeful”

lingerie range is wonderful, and I think it’s great that there is a high-street shop offering these options to women.

“I’m often asked if there will ever be a cure for breast cancer. I think it would be wonderful if there was but it’s such a diverse disease, I feel that unless you can offer a cure to every patient, you’re leaving people behind. However, I hope that soon it’s going to become a manageable disease so that if you receive that diagnosis, it’s not so frightening.

“My advice to someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer? You’ve got a tough road ahead but hang in there and hope for the best. There are more and more treatment options coming through so it’s a time to be hopeful.

“It’s tremendous to think that our work could potentially change people’s lives. The sheer discovery element of our research at the Breakthrough centre is hugely exciting. We’re currently finding things that no one has ever seen before, and to think that it could one day translate into helping breast cancer patients feels very powerful and inspiring.”