Breast cancer survivor says ‘keep positive’

Cancer survivor Michelle Plant.

Cancer survivor Michelle Plant.

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A RECOVERING cancer patient hopes her positive outlook will help inspire others as she continues her successful battle against the disease.

Former councillor Michelle Plant has spoken of the moment her world fell apart after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The brave 50-year-old told how just hours after diagnosis she carried on her councillor duties – even sitting through a local authority meeting about cancer.

And as she continues her treatment, she said: “There is life after cancer.”

Michelle initially kept the devastating bombshell from her mum, Jean Kennedy, 73, who was a

resident representative sitting in the public gallery.

But despite her ordeal, she managed to continue her role with Hartlepool Borough Council and even achieved a textile design degree.

Michelle, from Woodstock Way, in the Clavering area of Hartlepool, had this message for other suffers: “There is life after cancer.

“Be positive and get help and support.”

Michelle, who is mum to 18-year-old Robert Plant, said she had been feeling ill for a year before being diagnosed in June 2009, with symptoms of tiredness and feeling off her food.

She said doctors initially told her she had high blood pressure.

But Michelle took vitamin tablets and she began to lose weight and her hair started to fall out.

She said: “My eyes weren’t as clear and bright as they were and I looked very tired – I seemed to have aged about 20 years.”

Michelle and Robert decided to get away to the Greek island of Kos for a week in the sun.

But it was there, while having a shower, that she noticed the lump.

“I immediately thought ‘this is not good’,” she said.

When Michelle and Robert returned home, she immediately went to see her doctor.

She was sent for a biopsy and a week later she received the results.

When the devastating news that she had cancer was confirmed, Michelle said: “I was in shock, my immediate reaction was I should tell somebody.

“But I didn’t want to upset everybody.

“It’s like a shell-shock – it takes a while for it to sink in.

“That day, I had a meeting at the council chambers on health about breast cancer.

“It was strange really – my mam was in the public gallery and she didn’t know.”

Michelle, who was Independent Brus ward councillor from 2007 until losing her seat in this year’s elections, kept her devastating secret to herself for two weeks.

The former social services worker underwent a three-hour operation to remove the lump, as well as four out of five lymph nodes from her armpit.

She then endured six sessions of chemotherapy over 13 weeks and a further 20 weeks of radiotherapy at James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough.

She said: “Over Christmas 2009, I was losing hair and being physically sick.

“I was still doing work as a councillor and dealing with people’s issues.”

To take her mind off her treatment, she enrolled on a textile design degree at Cleveland College of Art and Design in September 2009.

She paid tribute to college staff who were patient with her despite Michelle being “extremely tired and ill”.

Michelle added: “The course really helped me recover.”

On graduating at Middlesbrough Town Hall, Michelle, who must take a course of Tamoxifen tablets and have a yearly mammogram until her five-year “all-clear” period is up, said: “I was elated.

“It was an uphill battle But at the end of it all I look back and think ‘wow, I got through it, I got there’.”

She now plans to offer art projects to the community.