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‘It has got to happen to somebody so why shouldn’t it be me’ - Landlady speaks out over breast cancer diagnosis

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: April 22, 2014

  • 18/04/14 Breast cancer patient Penny McDonald - breast cancer....

  • 18/04/14 Breast cancer patient Penny McDonald - breast cancer....

  • 18/04/14 Breast cancer patient Penny McDonald - breast cancer....

  • 18/04/14 Breast cancer patient Penny McDonald - breast cancer....

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IT is arguably every woman’s nightmare to be told by a doctor that they have breast cancer.

But for Penny Walker, it is a diagnosis she has faced with steadfast courage and determined to beat the disease.

For the foreseeable future, the 54-year-old landlady, of Field Lane, Burton, will be injected with a cocktail of drugs in gruelling chemotherapy sessions which leave her with the feeling ‘of a constant hangover’.

Despite the waves of nausea and the prospect of losing her hair, Penny has maintained a positive outlook throughout.

“I would prefer not to go through it,” she said.

“But it’s a means to an end so I just feel that I’m going through a bit of discomfort and illness now, and hopefully in about nine months I will be fit again.”

Penny’s diagnosis came after an eagle-eyed doctor spotted the tiny lump – about the size of a two pence piece – during a routine mammogram scan at the start of March.

She said: “I had a recall which I was not really worried about, my eldest sister had had one and everything was fine.

“But the doctors then came back and said there was a small cancer there in my left breast.

“But it had been identified very early so they were positive it was going to be easily treated.”

However, these hopes were dealt a blow when a biopsy result showed the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.

“Initially I was fairly resigned and quite calm about it,” Penny said.

“It has got to happen to somebody so why shouldn’t it be me. It had been caught early and they are going to sort it.

“I don’t think there would be anyone not upset being told they had cancer, but it was more of a shock they said it had gone through to my lymph nodes, that was not in the plan.”

As a result of the cancer spreading, Penny must now undergo a course of neoadjuvant chemotherapy.

First, she is injected with an anti-sickness drug, followed by three others to kill the cancerous cells before the remains of the lump can be removed later on.

“It involves sitting in a chair and having massive syringes injected,” Penny said.

“The other drugs can make you feel quite queasy.

“It’s like having a severe hangover all of the time, you tend to get better from hangovers, but this so far has not gone off.

“I’m still feeling nauseous and everything tastes funny and metallic, tea is quite horrible so I’m drinking lemon and ginger tea which seems to help.”

Penny has also been told she will probably start lose her hair sometime in the next two weeks.

“It’s very unlikely it will stay,” she said.

“But it’s a minor thing in comparison if it was not detected. I have got lots of hats and bandanas so for me it’s no big deal.”

Penny said the invasive treatment had also left her feeling lethargic and needing time off from her job as a call manager for social housing provider Trent and Dove.

She has also taken a back foot on the running of two Burton pubs - The Devonshire Arms, in Station Street, and the Alfred Ale House, in Derby Street - which she runs with her partner of 18 years, Jackie.

In the wake of Penny’s diagnosis, The Alfred Ale House will host a ‘quiz trek’ from 2pm on Sunday, April 4, to raise money for the charity Breast Cancer Awareness.

Penny added: “If it had not been for the amount of money raised through charities, my prognosis might not be as good as it is.

“So it’s just so important to keep these funds coming in.”

Anyone who would like to take part can get in touch with the pub by calling 01283 562178 or searching for The Alfred Ale House on Facebook.

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