When my younger sister Gemma rang to tell me that the lump she'd found in her left breast had just been diagnosed as Stage 2 primary breast cancer, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. I was shocked; how could this have happened to someone young, fit and healthy like my little sister? Surely this happened to older women? Turns out that although 8/10 cases of breast cancer occur in women (and much more rarely, men) over 50, approximately 4% of cases are in women aged 39 and under. At age 38, Gemma seemed the most unlikely candidate for cancer. Fortunately, it was of the slower growing variety, located only in the breast and since it had been caught in time, likely to be very responsive to treatment.
After the initial shock, Gemma rose to the challenge in true Gemma fashion and since diagnosis in October 2020, has completed 6 rounds of chemotherapy (one timed on Christmas Eve meaning she instead celebrated Christmas a week early!) spaced 3 weeks apart, and surgery in March to remove the tumour.
Cancer doesn't care if there's a pandemic going on! Due to Covid, she has not been able to have anyone with her during treatment in hospital and due to the obvious health risks and travel restrictions, I have not seen her in person since October which has been very hard. Thank God for the wonders of technology enabling us to stay in touch! Fortunately she has had the amazing support of her boyfriend Owen at her side (they live in Cheltenham) and Mum (who lives an hour away) has been able to meet up with her a few times outdoors.
Gemma has just found out she needs another operation on 9th April to remove some more tissue that could still contain cancerous cells, and following that will need an intensive course of radiotherapy as well as continuing monthly injections for a year.
Gemma has shown true grit, resilience and bravery throughout this journey – as well as humour! (donning her 'fighter pilot' chemo cold cap for treatment; getting her blue radioactive 'smurf boob' out on Zoom for her consultant) She continues to have a can-do attitude which I have no doubt adds to the healing power of this amazing young woman. I am very proud of her strength and determination, though I am not surprised: when Gemma puts her mind to something she invariably excels at it, and I am sure that beating cancer will be no exception; she is not someone to sit around feeling sorry for herself for too long.
One of Gemma's dear friends Wendy suggested we take part in the Race for Life as the Glitter Team (named after 'The Glitter Girls' aka Zoe and Gemma c. 1987 see photos below!) to collectively raise money for Cancer Research as it has particular significance this year.. Please donate here to Team Davies as we will all be doing the Race for Life as a family in our home-town of Brighton and we're looking forward to raising lots of money for cancer research whilst supporting our very own sparkling Gem.
I love you Gemma, and we're all rooting for you – can't wait to see you soon xxxx