A BAKER from the Lizard has spoken candidly about the terrible day she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Hope O’Neill said she feared last year that she was going to die but was determined to beat the illness.
After undergoing treatment, the 49-year-old returned to work this week, baking and selling her home-made bread.
She is now urging people to eat healthily, exercise and visit their doctor if they are worried.
“The worst time is immediately after you’ve been told,” she said. “Automatically, you think you’re going to die.”
Mrs O’Neill lives with her husband Rob in Tregarne, near St Keverne. She started her baking business four years ago and was a regular stallholder at markets in Helston, Mullion, Sennen and Penzance as well as other events.
But her day-to-day life came to an abrupt halt a year ago this month February when she noticed a lump by her breast.
She was referred to the specialist cancer unit, the Mermaid Centre, attached to Royal Cornwall Hospital at Truro, where she was given the crushing news that she had cancer.
“It takes a long time and you have to have all the tests and biopsies,” she said.
“Then, after a couple of weeks, they called me in and said, ‘Yes, it was cancer’.
“It is shocking news to get. You feel pretty desperate.
“A lot of people go through that emotional rollercoaster.
“Then, when you get on with the treatment, you realise you’re going to be ok.”
Over the next few months, Mrs O’Neill underwent surgery, followed by chemotherapy and then radiotherapy.
She said: “I was really focused on getting through it.
“I really kept a low profile; that was my way of getting through it.
“You start asking yourself, ‘Why did I get this?’
“Then you think, ‘I certainly don’t want this again’.
She was recommended to take regular exercise and eat healthily after her treatment.
“Exercise is important and while I was very busy with my bread life, I abandoned all my exercise.
“I am not saying that is anything to do with the cancer, but from now on I am going to have a better work-life balance,” she said.
“I always eat healthily anyway and would say this is good advice for everyone.”
She also urged people to visit their GP if they were concerned. “A lot of the time, with a lump, there is nothing wrong,” she added. “All the better if it’s nothing and if there is something wrong, it’s better to catch it quickly.”
She added her thanks to her customers and friends who expressed their support over the past year. “I can’t thank people enough. I had all these customers getting in touch and sending me cards. I also discovered so many people who have also been through breast cancer.”
Mrs O’Neill returned to work last week and was at her first market in Helston on Saturday. She is now starting her regular markets again and her bread can also be found at the shop Brenda’s in Coverack and Fat Apples café in Porthallow.