A devoted friend is to run the Leeds Half Marathon to raise money for a life-changing operation for a mum-of-two devastated by breast cancer. Linda Walker, from Leeds, wants to raise funds for a private op to help pal Ann-Marie Partridge after the mum-of-two says she was told the procedure could not be funded on the NHS.
Ann-Marie, from Kippax, Leeds, has undergone years of reconstruction treatment after having one of her breasts removed four years ago, when she was diagnosed with cancer.
But, according to Ann-Marie, her breasts have been left uneven and ‘terrible’ and she is reminded of her cancer ordeal every time she catches sight of herself in the mirror.
She says her self-esteem is at rock-bottom and she rarely goes out. Ann-Marie, 50, also lacks the confidence to think about a relationship, so upset is she at the way she now looks.
Anne-Marie (left) and Linda
Ann-Marie, a dental receptionist, said: “I’ve just turned 50 but I feel about 90.
“I used to be really confident but now I don’t go out at all and if I have to, I cover myself up completely. I’m divorced but I can’t even think about a relationship. If I don’t want to look at myself, why would anyone else?”
Ann-Marie was diagnosed with breast cancer just over four years ago, aged just 46. She noticed a small change to her right breast but didn’t think much of it until she went for a routine nurse appointment.
She was just about the leave when the nurse asked if there was anything else bothering her. Ann-Marie almost didn’t mention it, but at the last second told the nurse about the change.
“I’m so glad the nurse thought to ask me that question, because I probably wouldn’t have said anything.”
She was also offered reconstruction, but was adamant that she did not want implants as she wanted to look as ‘natural’ as possible. Instead she opted to have reconstructive surgery, using fat from elsewhere in her body.
Unfortunately, the op – using fat from her back – did not work and she suffered an infection. Doctors tried the operation several more times, but were not able to rebuild the breast as her body continued to reject the new tissue.
Eventually, and reluctantly, after almost three years, Ann-Marie agreed to have a small artificial implant to try to replicate her healthy breast.
Ann-Marie said: “I’d had lots of operations. One every few months and it wasn’t working. After three years I couldn’t do it any more so I went for the implant.”
While the new right breast looked better, the surgery left Ann-Marie’s chest ‘unsymmetrical’. She was desperate to have corrective surgery on her healthy breast to ‘even up’ her chest, but it was not medically-necessary and the NHS could not fund it.
She has appealed the decision and it is now being considered by a Hospitals board.
Ann-Marie said: “I just can’t get away from the cancer. Every time I see my boobs I know they are not normal and why. I just want to move on.
“I don’t feel it’s a cosmetic issue – I didn’t ask to have cancer and my breast removed. This is really affecting my life and my confidence and my ability to move on with my life.
“I just wanted them to look normal – that’s why I went through six operations, to avoid having to have an implant in the first place.
“All I want is for them to look similar. I don’t want bigger or smaller boobs, or a lift or anything. I just want them to look normal.
“I feel like I’ve been made to feel that I’m not grateful; I really am very grateful. I feel like I’m asking too much when all I want to do is look and feel normal.”
Ann-Marie said she could not thank Linda enough for wanting to run for her.
She said: “It’s so touching. I was really moved when she said she was going to run for me.”
Linda has now set up a Go Fund Me page to help raise the £5,000 they believe they will need for the operation. If the NHS ultimately decides to fund the operation, monies raised will be donated to a breast cancer charity instead.
Linda said: “I just hate seeing Ann-Marie so unhappy. She used to be so confident and outgoing, she was the life and soul of the party. She was the party! We want the old Ann-Marie back.
“I’ve never run a half marathon before – but if it helps Ann-Marie feel back to herself again, it will all be worth it!”
The Plusnet Leeds Half Marathon takes place on Sunday 14th May. Click here for more details.