Much-deserved treat for Marilyn and Deana - Three articles

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mother and daughter Marilyn Harker and Deana Emerson do everything together – even fighting breast cancer at the same time. Now the pair are picking up the pieces of their lives and looking forward to a healthy, family Christmas together. 



MARILYN Harker was devastated when she had to tell her daughter she had breast cancer.

But nothing prepared the 65-year-old for what she heard next – "I've got it too, Mum."

Two weeks after Marilyn broke the news to her family, 41-year-old Deana Emerson discovered that she also had cancer.

"I didn't want to tell my mum," said Deana. "I wanted to hide it from her because I didn't want her worrying about me.

"In the end we battled it together. It has made us strong and we have survived. We are fighters, the both of us. I'm so proud of my mum. She's an absolute star."

Marilyn discovered a change in one of her breasts while she was on holiday in Spain. When she got home, she went to see her doctor.

In Deana's case, she says she decided to go and see her doctor after one of her breasts started to feel tender.

The pair were diagnosed within two weeks of each other at the Royal Derby Hospital.

Deana was told that she had developed two different kinds of cancers in each of her breasts, which were unrelated and at different stages in growth.

"I never thought for a minute that I had cancer," said Deana, who works as a community midwife in the Belper area.

"I was sent to the Royal Derby Hospital and was immediately checked over. I had an ultrasound and a biopsy.

"When I went back for the results, I was told it was cancer. But what was even more shocking was that I had it in both breasts."

Deana was told she would need urgent treatment, including a double mastectomy, followed by intense chemotherapy and hormone medication.

"It was a crazy time," said Deana, who is married to Michael and has two children, 13-year-old Niamh and Caitlin, 11.

"To find out I had two cancers in both of my breasts was a bit of a shock. One cancer was at a stage one but the other was much more serious at stage three.

"The consultant also told me that it had travelled into my vascular system. I was pretty shocked.

"And my poor mum. She was upset too. I didn't tell her for a while because I couldn't bring myself to worry her anymore.

"Then, when we were travelling home from somewhere together, I broke the news. Obviously she was upset. So was my dad.

"He was cross that I'd told him while he was driving. He said to me, 'Why have you just told me that when I'm driving'. He was upset. He's had to watch my mum go through it all and then me.

"I was so sorry to give them more stuff to think about."

Marilyn was first to undergo treatment for her cancer – but it was not the first time she'd been diagnosed with it.

Twenty-three years ago, she was forced to have a mastectomy after doctors discovered she breast cancer.

Last year, she started her gruelling fight again.

"The two aren't related," said Marilyn, who tirelessly raises funds for the Derby Breast Cancer Support Group and has personally raised more than £25,000 for breast cancer charities.

"I was told it was just bad luck that I'd got cancer again. The two cancers were completely different.

"When I saw my breast in mirror, I knew it was cancer. I tried to put it to the back of my mind but I knew what the doctor was going to say."

Marilyn had her first mastectomy when she was 42. Last year, she had her second breast removed. She has no plans to have reconstruction surgery, as she doesn't want to put herself through any more operations.

Deana has done the opposite. During surgery to remove her breasts, she agreed that her consultant start the process to reconstruct her breasts.

"I knew that I wanted implants," said Deana, who lives in Shirland.

"It was something I discussed with my consultant at the very beginning. But before that, I had to get through chemotherapy – and that was tough. I had six doses and it was extremely hard.

"I was so ill. The first course of treatment made me so bad I ended up in hospital. The next lot made me take to my bed for 10 days. The third treatment was slightly better.

"But Christmas last year wasn't the best. I didn't feel great and that's hard when you've got children to keep entertained.

"This Christmas is going to be much better. Mum and I have made some lovely plans and it's going to be a real family time."

Marilyn and Deana are gathering the family together on Christmas Day and two of their friends are cooking them a meal to remember.

Deana said: "We're really looking forward to Christmas this year. There will be 10 or 11 of us for Christmas dinner. It's going to be lovely."

Marilyn, who lives in South Wingfield, says she couldn't have got through the last few months without her family and friends.

"I can't name them all," she smiled. "But they have been wonderful. They've sent me card and flowers and have really cared about me."

Deana's list of friends is even longer. She's an extremely popular person.

"I have to thank everyone who cared about me, she said. "People have been lovely and I'd like to thank them all.

"The children have been amazing too and Michael, my husband, has been wonderful. When someone truly awful happens, you really get to find out who your friends are. It has been a tough year but fingers crossed we're at the end of it."

Deana is a coach at Amber Valley Athletics Club and is already back training kids and getting herself in better shape. She's running the London Marathon next April with her friend, Helen Yates, to raise funds for the Royal Derby Hospital. They are aiming to raise £5,000.

Marilyn and Deana are indebted to the pioneering and life-saving treatment they both received at the Royal Derby Hospital.

They said everyone who nursed them, supported them and operated on them deserve a medal.

The pair are clear of their cancer now but have to take drugs for the next five years.

"It has been an emotional journey," said Marilyn, "but we've done it."

Veronica Rogers, lead breast care nurse specialist at the Royal Derby Hospital, said: "During my time in breast care nursing, which is 16 years, I have only ever seen one other mother and daughter diagnosed with breast cancer within weeks of each other.

"It's an important part of our breast care nursing role to support all ladies and their families following a diagnosis of breast cancer.

"Derby's familial cancer service is very happy to see people worried about a family history of breast cancer.

"We consider many things, like the number of people in their family affected by breast cancer and the age at which it was diagnosed.

"After this assessment, only a small proportion turn out to be at high risk.

"In a very small number of families the high risk of developing cancer may be due to inherited faults in known breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. In some families, it is possible to carry out blood tests to search for these faulty genes.

"Depending on the level of risk, there are several different options available to women, for example, early screening and even risk reducing surgery.

"Anyone worried about their family history of breast cancer can access our service via their GP."

To sponsor Deana and her friend Helen, visit www.just aemerson.

It's the second time Marilyn has battled cancer. She had her first mastectomy when she was 42 and underwent surgery again in August 2011.

Deana, a midwife in Belper, needed a double mastectomy in September 2011 after doctors discovered she had two different cancers in each of her breasts.

"It was hard telling my mum I had cancer when she'd not long told me," said mum-of-two Deana. "We were both upset about it but we vowed to fight the cancer together."

The women both lost their hair following their chemotherapy treatment. But now they've been told their cancers have been successfully treated.

Marilyn said: "We're going to have the best Christmas this year."

MUM Marilyn Harker and daughter Deana Emerson have battled hard to beat their cancers – that's why they both deserved a treat.

The Derby Telegraph teamed up with Westfield and Marks and Spencer to give the women a special shopping day to get them into the Christmas spirit.

They were invited to Westfield's Marks and Spencer to choose a special outfit of their choice – for free.

Store manager Elaine Moulds and commercial manager Aftab Kapasi also arranged for the women to have a makeover in the store's new beauty department.

The women were also presented with luxury beauty hampers, worth around £200 each.

Elaine said: "We have the greatest respect for these two women, who have been through so much. They looked absolutely marvellous after their shopping spree.

"Aftab arranged it all and he's done a great job. We were delighted to give these women an outfit for Christmas. They well and truly deserve it."

Marilyn and Deana agreed to try and find dresses for the party season. Marilyn has a few special events arranged and Deana wanted something to wear to her work's Christmas party.

"I love Marks," said Marilyn. "I often go and shop in there, but this time is very different because I don't have to pay.

"I'm so delighted. It was such a treat. Thank you so much."

Deana was equally overwhelmed. She loves to shop, but says she never gets the chance to treat herself to a full outfit.

Their mission – in less than an hour – was to find a dress, jacket, tights and shoes.

Deana chose a black lace dress which she teamed with a cropped black jacket with long lapels. Thick black tights and high, dark blue shoes completed her look.

"I love it," she said. "Since my hair has grown back, I've struggled to keep it tidy. It's so curly and short at the moment I really hate it.

"But in time, I hope it will get longer and a bit more manageable. I feel really nice, thank you."

Marilyn picked a fitted grey dress with fancy shoulder detail. She picked a pair of black shoes with fringes on the front and a pair of dark tights to finish her look. She looked amazing.

"I was spoilt for choice," she said. "I tried on a few dresses but this one is most definitely the nicest. I really love it.

"I'll certainly be wearing it on New Year's Eve."

Once the women were dressed, they went upstairs for the mini makeover. Their make-up was applied by beauty advisor, Nicola Massey. The 19-year-old worked wonders and after no more than 10 minutes, they were ready for our photographer to take their pictures.

"I've never had so much fun," said Deana.

"I dread to think how much all this has cost. I didn't even look at the price on my dress.

"I love it so much. I wanted something lacy after I saw Lorraine wear something similar on Daybreak. I think this dress is so nice.

"I'll be putting it on when I go out with the girls for my work's party. Thank you so much for setting this up and inviting us to do it.

"We feel really pampered. It's such a treat."

Marilyn and Deana strutted their stuff as we took a selection of stunning photographs of them in the store. They savoured the attention and loved every minute of their Marks and Spencer makeover.

"I just need a cuppa now," smiled Marilyn.

Her wish was granted. After a busy morning, the pair were whisked to the cafe for a lunch of their choice.

"It has been a fantastic day," said Deana. "Thank you to everyone who made this happen. Mum and I feel very happy. It has been lovely."

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