“ANGELINA Jolie saved my life and helped me discover a whole new chapter of my life.”
So says former Cork-based accountant, turned children’s writer and breast cancer survivor Katherine Gordon.
Katherine only started carrying out self-checks in 2015 after the Hollywood star spoke out about her own preventative mastectomy.
And she firmly believes her cancer was on a cusp of turning from treatable to untreatable when she discovered an irregularity in January 2016.
“‘I started doing weekly checks for the last six months of 2015. The last weekendthe year, everything was normal, but on Saturday, January 9 2016, I noticed one of my nipples was slightly inverted.
“I didn’t immediately think it was the ‘Big C’ but maybe a cyst and made an appointment to see my doctor that Monday,” she remembers.
Katherine recalls that in the previous months she had ‘felt a shift’ in herself and her body.
An accountant, who ran her own business on the South Mall, she put it down to being busy.
“I remember though I wasn’t enjoying work as much. My personality was changing and I was feeling overwhelmed, which I put down to my heavy workload — I was working 50 hours a week minimum.”
Then aged 43, her doctor referred her for a mammogram in the Bon Secours Hospital that Thursday, where pretty soon, Katherine realised the news was not going to be good.
Five tumours were discovered in her breast and she was told she would need chemotherapy and a mastectomy.
“I just broke down crying. I also felt a bit angry at this woman telling me I had cancer as I had such a busy year planned!” Katherine says
Her treatment was arranged and everything happened very fast, she said.
“I did ask if I had time to freeze my eggs and was told I didn’t so that was another blow I had to deal with.
She was also told by her doctor she would need to make plans for her business as she’d be out for a year.
What followed was eight sessions, from February to May, which she tolerated quite well.
But she does recall a particular moment after her second session: “I woke up that night and I was literally clinging to my duvet with fear. I came across a booklet in my bedside table that I got in a church in the Bahamas, while visiting my sister there. It was The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. It was 3am and I started reading it and thought it was amazing.
“Another book my sister had given me was by Joseph Murphy, Power of your Subconscious Mind, which I also found really good. They both gave me a new blueprint for my mind.
“I firmly believe a lot of my illness was brought on by stress. I was ignoring my body which was telling me to slow down. When my body was tired I just kept going.”
Five weeks after finishing her chemo, she had surgery when in fact a total of seven tumours, rather than the original five, were removed.
“I felt very positive at that stage. I remember a nurse asking my sister was I alright because I was so happy! But I just really wanted the cancer off my body,” she explained.
In all, her treatment went from February, 2016, to July, 2017, and also included radiotherapy which she said really knocked her out.
She spent Christmas, 2016, with her family in Hayfield Manor and it was there her idea for writing children’s books came to her.
“I was having a lie-down, and I think Home Alone was on TV or something and this scene of my brother, sister and I playing in our great Aunt Nellie’s garden came into my mind.
“She had a 24-foot fairy fort in her back field and I said to myself I was going to write about that and Irish mythology.
“So that May I sold my practice and began my new adventure and have not looked back.”
Her first book, a fantasy story, is currently with agents in Dublin, London and New York and she’s eager ‘to get cracking’ on the second of what is a four book series.
“I would have liked to have had children but I put my career first and then fate intervened. But this is my way of having children in my life. I’m still hoping to meet Mr Right!”
These days she’s also very careful with her diet and works closely with a nutritionist. She eats lots of vegetables, and completely avoids sugar and alcohol.
“I’m doing my best to make sure my cancer doesn’t come back,” she said.
Katherine, who lives in Blackrock, is now celebrating three years in remission and is hosting a coffee morning in the Hayfield Manor on October 10, to raise funds for the National Breast Cancer Research Institute in Galway.
“I’ve had a life-changing experience. I firmly believe I’ve been given a second chance to help people. And to some extent I’m glad of my experience as it made me wake up and realise how wonderful life can be,” she said.
Katherine’s coffee morning takes place in the Hayfield Manor on October 10. Celebrity chef Rachel Allen will MC the event where Katherine will share her story. Tickets, costing €25, are available on Eventbrite.
KINSALE PINK WALK
Meanwhile, the eighth Kinsale Pink Walk takes place on October 6.
Chairperson of the Pink Walk, Fiona O’Mahony, a breast cancer survivor, said, “We took the decision to move the walk to October this year to coincide with breast cancer awareness month. We wanted to bring the walk back to basics, remind people to check their breasts as early detection is imperative.
“Even though more people are diagnosed every year, the survival rate with early intervention is better than ever before and something I feel very strongly about raising awareness of.”
The Pink Walk raises crucial funds for the Irish Cancer Society’s cancer research and free services available locally to help anyone affected by cancer.
Registration is now open at www.pinkribbonwalk.ie
CORK PINK WEEK
Next week we dedicate our edition of WOW! to Cork Pink Week.
The event, now in its second year, runs from Friday, October 11 to Friday, October 18 and raises funds for the Breast Care Unit at CUH.
A business breakfast will run at Collins Barracks on October 11 featuring guest speaker, EU Commissioner Phil Hogan. Members of the Irish Defence Forces will provide a military-grade breakfast to the 350 attendees. Tickets from eventbrite.
The same weekend will also see Collins Barracks host the Pink Lunch on Sunday, October 13. If you want tickets for the lunch email firstname.lastname@example.org