Parliamentary candidate for Hall Green shares her heartfelt story battling cancer

18 Jun 2024
Cllr Izzy Knowles

 Almost everyone has got a story about how cancer has affected them, either personally or through a loved one. 

“The big C” as it is so often called, is something that causes a lot of fear, pain and anguish. It has also been the inspiration behind countless storylines on TV and cinema screens so even if we have not experienced it personally, we all have an emotional connection to cancer.

 I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2013 on my 56th birthday. I’d not long left the police and started a new job working at the homeless charity, SIFA Fireside.  My cancer was one that is very common in menopausal women. I was told that 1 in 9 women can get it at that stage. It was quite aggressive and had been fuelled by the HRT I was taking at the time.  I vividly remember the feeling of fear in my stomach when the look on the radiologist's face at the ultrasound check told me the lump in my breast was malignant.

I was treated at the QE Hospital firstly with hormone therapy to reduce the size of the tumour. The treatment went on for 4 months and was unpleasant knowing the cancer was still in your body and the treatment might not be effective.

In November I was operated on by a lovely female surgeon who took samples and sent them off to be checked. Soon after, we got the results that there was no evidence the cancer had spread. It was a huge relief for me and my family.

All this time I had continued working and not told many people that I had been diagnosed. I even led the Moseley Christmas Lights swich on only one week after my operation.

My surgeon thought I wouldn’t have to have more treatment, however in the following January, my oncologist insisted I take a course of preventative chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The 6 sessions of chemo were every three weeks. It was brutal. Just as I was recovering from the last session the next one would begin.  Whilst undertaking chemotherapy, I carried on my work at SIFA Fireside. I loved the job and wanted to be as normal as possible.

People who experience cancer seem to have a moment where it hit’s psychologically. For me, it was going to a work event in Norfolk. I was with some former police colleagues, and I’d not said much about my diagnosis to anyone, so they didn’t know.


All through the day I was incredibly conscious that I was losing large chunks of hair, and I was desperately cleaning it up and hoping they wouldn’t notice. I still don’t know why I didn’t want to tell them I was having chemo, but I just couldn’t do it. I just didn’t want the fuss.

Before I knew I needed to have chemo, I’d signed up to do the 26 mile Moonwalk through London in support of breast cancer charities. Throughout my treatment I remained determined to do it, two weeks after my last session in May 2014 I did the walk. I probably shouldn’t have but I completed the 13 mile half marathon. I have the medal here and it was as proud a moment as when years after I received the BEM.

Thereafter it took me 6 months to get back to full fitness and I have not looked back since.

But that year of my life brought home to me how cancer takes over your whole life, and not just the life of the patient but the whole family. I was lucky, and I was reminded of that every time I went to my appointments. I saw some people who looked more and more poorly each time. They didn’t have the positive diagnosis I had. Thier's wasn’t preventative chemo it was a desperate last chance to hang onto life chemo. Some of them were very young and it was heartbreaking to witness them deteriorate.

I was also lucky that I didn’t have to wait long for my treatment. I put my total faith in the doctors, and everything worked out for me, and that experience has helped me to help other people since.  

Someone I know had a very stressful experience during Covid, and another friend had to consider paying for expensive private treatment because of the waiting times. The anxiety and risk of waiting for treatment can be very counterproductive and does nothing to help the patient or society in the long term. 

Lord Mayor, I’m pleased to support this motion, and I would encourage the whole house to support our amendment which is so important to, not only reducing the burden on the NHS but by seeking to push for specific support from the next Government, will ensure treatment for patients is the best it can be.

Thank you Lord Mayor.

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