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Wherever possible we like to include feedback from women who have experienced breast cancer and their families. Sometimes their feedback will be inconsistent with current medical practice. Where this is the case, we provide a link to the relevant information on the Breasthealthlink website, so you can access the current medical view supported by leading Cancer organisations. Ed.

Competitive swimming motivated me back to being fit

Shelley - Aged 41

Shelley from New Zealand chose to have a bilateral mastectomy as she was afraid of recurrence. She also had a lymph gland clearance. As they discovered 3 positive nodes she had to have chemotherapy which started 6 weeks after surgery. At the time of surgery her two children were 3 and 8 years old so she was determined to get better.

Six months before her diagnosis Shelley had taken up Master's swimming. She had set herself big goals for the coming year. She wanted to increase her training and get really fit, she wanted to compete in the New Zealand North Island Short course championships and now it seemed she had to focus on survival. Her swimming motivated the choice of a double mastectomy as she did not want to look lopsided in the pool.

Two and a half weeks after surgery she got back into the pool and started training. "I was terrified but after 1000 metres I felt exhilarated and over the next few weeks I swam regularly. Then she had chemo. She felt horribly sick and nauseous but once again 11 days after treatment she was back in the pool. " I had no energy for freestyle but I swam breast-stroke. There were moments of great pleasure as I achieved small goals. After my chemo I felt tired and drained but decided to resume my swimming training in earnest."

Four months after chemo Shelley was racing again. "Happiness consumed me as I had survived chemo and was swimming faster than before. " With the help of her swimming coach, a great deal of motivation and a passion for swimming, Shelley regained her strength and fitness.

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