Press Release

WOMEN AFFECTED BY BREAST CANCER AND THEIR LOVED ONES SHARE EXPERIENCES TO HELP RAISE MONEY TO FUND VITAL RESEARCH

27 September 2018

  • M&S invites women affected by breast cancer and their loved ones to front a nationwide campaign
  • The group speak candidly about their experiences and the impact the disease has had on them
  • This October, the retailer will be donating 20 per cent of selected pink lingerie and sleepwear sales to help fund 5,000 hours of research into preventing breast cancer

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LEFT TO RIGHT TOP ROW: SAM MCGIMPSEY, REBECCA HAMPTON, KEELI MORGAN SECOND ROW: SAL CHEEMA, ZOE MATTHEWS, MICHELLE LLEWELLYN FRONT ROW: LOIS HOLNESSLEFT TO RIGHT: GURVEER CHEEMA, TOM FOWLES, MICHELLE LLEWELLYN, KEELI MORGAN SECOND ROW: SAL CHEEMA, REBECCA HAMPTON, SAM MCGIMPSEY, ZOE MATTHEWS, LOIS HOLNESS FRONT ROW: JASON MCGIMPSEY

This October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, M&S and Breast Cancer Now will be sharing the experiences and realities of living with breast cancer, as described by of a group of women affected by the disease, and the loved ones who provided vital support to them.

The five pairs involved are a combination of friends, partners and a mother and daughter, and have come together to front M&S’ annual campaign in support of the UK’s largest breast cancer charity, Breast Cancer Now.  From best friends diagnosed with the disease three months apart, to new parents receiving the diagnosis just after their son was born and a mother talking about sharing the news of her diagnosis with her young daughter, all five pairs have one shared experience – breast cancer.

From 27th September to the end of October, 20% of sales from a selection of M&S pink lingerie and sleepwear will be donated to Breast Cancer Now. The collection of pink pieces, ranging from bras to sleepwear and vests, are modelled by the women involved. The money raised throughout the month will contribute to M&S’s ongoing goal to raise money for Breast Cancer Now’s research into the prevention of breast cancer.

Now in its fourth year, the M&S and Breast Cancer Now partnership aims to raise £13 million over five years to help prevent 9,000 cases of breast cancer a year by 2025.

Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Now said:

“We are so proud that this incredible group of ten have come together for this year’s M&S Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign. It is very poignant to hear them share their personal experiences of breast cancer and how the disease has impacted their relationships and lives. Their stories remind us just how important it is that we continue to shine a spotlight on the urgent need for continued investment into breast cancer research, which provides so much hope for the future.

“We would like to thank M&S, its customers and colleagues, for their continued and dedicated support in raising vital funds for Breast Cancer Now. Money raised in October will enable our scientists to spend more precious time undertaking world-class research, which could eventually lead to preventing the disease occurring in the first place, sparing those affected by breast cancer the fear, uncertainty and despair a diagnosis of the disease can bring.”

Laura Charles, Lingerie Director at M&S, said:

“We know that this partnership and cause matter deeply to our customers and colleagues, which is why, this October, we are asking everyone to help us fund over 5,000 hours of research time - research that will help us prevent cases of breast cancer in the future. We hope this campaign inspires M&S customers to head in-store or online this October and purchase one of the pink products which donates to Breast Cancer Now. Your support means more research time and together we can make a difference for all those affected by this devastating disease.”

Breast cancer remains the most common cancer in the UK and whilst great progress has been made to ensure more women survive the disease, the need for Breast Cancer Now’s research has never been more urgent. The money raised by this partnership with M&S will help fund Breast Cancer Now’s scientific research to better understand the risk factors associated with breast cancer. It is hoped this long-term partnership will lead to the development of a risk assessment tool that ultimately will better inform women of the options available to them based on their personal risk of breast cancer in the future and allow them to act to reduce that risk.

To find out more about how you can support the M&S and Breast Cancer Now partnership, visit:  www.marksandspencer.com/s/lingerie/breast-cancer-now

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All imagery available to download at www.prshots.com

For further information / interviews / images please contact:

Marks & Spencer Corporate Press Office

corporate.press@marks-and-spencer.com or 0208 718 1919

Breast Cancer Now Press Office

press@breastcancernow.org or 020 7749 4115 / 07436107914

Notes to Editors

THE PAIRS

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MICHELLE & KEELI

Michelle and Keeli are best friends and have worked together for 10 years. Michelle lives in Bridgend and Keeli in Cwmbran, Wales.

Michelle, 43, was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2017. She has had a double lumpectomy with three lymph nodes removed from each side, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She is taking Letrozole daily tablets and receiving Zoladex 4 weekly injections. She is awaiting further surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes as a precautionary measure.

Michelle said: “When I discovered the lump in my right breast, Keeli was the first one that I confided in, knowing that she would be concerned for me and would be there as a source of support for when I needed to speak to someone.

“Since my diagnosis, I’ve never thought about what I can’t do, but instead about what I can do. I don’t worry about the little things anymore, but try to be happy and live my life the best that I can.”

Keeli, 43, was diagnosed with breast cancer just three months after Michelle, in January 2018. She had a lumpectomy in February and two lymphnodes removed, followed by radiotherapy. She is now on Tamoxifen. It was Michelle who encouraged her to check her breasts, after her own diagnosis.

Keeli said: “Every time Michelle went through anything following her breast cancer diagnosis, we would talk it through, so naturally when I found a lump I told Michelle. It wasn’t until she told me about her breast cancer, and nagged me about checking that I did - I just never thought it would happen to me, but it did. Ever since we both started our treatments, we have been comparing notes, boobs, scars, skin, discussing moisturisers and feelings about Tamoxifen. We’ve been really open and honest with each other, but also with others around us.”

Their relationship

Michelle said: “Keeli and I are the same age and have the same outlook on life, positive and always up for a challenge and willing to help others with a big smile on our faces. We bonded even more when she dragged me up pen-y-fan mountain a few years ago for my 40th birthday with balloons strapped to my back, because no matter what we do, it's always with a smile and the aim to make others smile with us.”

Keeli said: “Michelle and I have worked together for ten years and have always been close, but a stronger bond has developed between us from this shared experience of breast cancer that we have both been through.”

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SAM AND JASON

Sam and Jason are husband and wife from Chester.

About their experience of breast cancer

Sam, 44, is a Kitchen Designer. She was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in 2014. She had nearly six months of intensive chemotherapy followed by bilateral mastectomy with no reconstruction. Since then she has targeted “maintenance” chemotherapy every three weeks, to date. Her secondary breast cancer has been “stable” for over two years.

Sam said: “I have chemotherapy every three weeks, and this helps me live a full life. My secondary breast cancer has been stable because of this treatment for over two years now. We’ve done some amazing things over the last three years and had so many special experiences. Yosemite earlier this year, a surprise trip from Jason, is right up there with the best.

“If I smile, we all smile – it’s just what I have to do. We’ve had so much support - it’s been a lifeline and we appreciate it so much and we’re so thankful for it.”

Jason, 43, is a Financial Advisor.

Jason said: “Sam has faced everything she has been through over the last three years with a smile on her face. We know there is so much out of our control, but instead we try to put our trust in medical professionals, and focus our energy on the good things, on the things we can control and let go of the negative.

“When you see pictures of Sam over the last three years, you see the difference pioneering drugs make in terms of her quality of life. It’s when you are put in a situation like this that you realise how important the work is that charity’s like Breast Cancer Now does.” 

Their relationship

Sam said: “Dealing with such a life-changing experience like a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer throws you into challenges that you feel you have no choice other than to get on with. Going through what we’ve been through, we’ve become best friends. Date nights have always been important to us, but our friendship has become stronger. Humour, strength and love have got us through. Breast cancer has not and will not break us. We’re a team, things feel easy to do because he is here and I am forever thankful that I went on that first date with Jase.“

Jason said: “What we’ve dealt with in the last few years, serves as the most stark reminder that you should cherish what you have and never take your partner for granted. I can honestly say we never did that before 2014, but since then we’ve been more thankful than ever that I wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer when talking her into going out with me, and that Sam finally said ‘yes’.”

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ZOE & LOIS

Zoe and Lois are mother and daughter from St Albans, Hertfordshire.

About their experience of breast cancer

Zoe, 46, is a Business Manager. She was diagnosed with DCIS in March 2018. She had surgery on 1st May this year and is currently in discussion with her breast care team about further risk reducing surgery.

Zoe said: “I've grown up very aware of breast cancer. It ripped through my family and took my Mum when I was just 4 years old, and then my older sister soon after she was 60. Due to my family history, I've been on the familial breast screening programme and have attended annual appointments in March for many years, but this year, was different. A week or so after my appointment, the postman delivered the mail. I opened the letter from the breast care clinic and as I read it, tears welled in my eyes and my throat went dry.

“I’m told by others how strong I have been throughout this process.  I wouldn’t know any other way to be honest. I need to stay strong for Lois but also for myself.

“I’ve been very lucky, and I hope that by the time Lois and her friends and generations are older, things will have moved on even more in terms of treatment options, because of research.”

Lois, 12, is at school. When she grows up she wants to be a supermodel, firefighter, doctor, surgeon or campaigner – or all at once! Her Mum’s diagnosis has encouraged her to fundraise at school, and raise awareness of breast cancer.

Lois said: “My mum recently was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m so grateful that it was spotted early, that her surgery went well and nothing bad has happened.

“Her experience has made me want to let other people know about breast cancer and to do charity work to raise money.

“If I could say something to a Breast Cancer Now researcher, I’d tell them to keep going, that they are doing an amazing job and that they are making people’s lives better now and in the future.”

Their relationship

Zoe said: “The hardest part of my journey to date, was telling Lois. I’ve had to share things with her that you perhaps wouldn’t want to share with your child. But my approach has been to open and honest. We have a genuine open and honest relationship and whilst I wanted to share, I certainly didn’t want to worry her.  I told her all the positives, how it was caught early and would be gone quickly. It’s been important for me for Lois to know that I’m the same Mum and that we can and will continue to do the same things together that we’ve always done.

Lois said: “My Mum is strong, amazing and pretty. She is always putting me first, helping me and sharing what she has with me, we both love each other very much. Since Mum’s diagnosis I have started to fundraise as I really want to raise money and awareness to help others and let them know they can overcome breast cancer.”

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SAL & GURVEER

Sal and Gurveer are husband and wife from Hillingdon, London. They have two sons.  

About their experience of breast cancer

Sal, 41, works in Clinical Research. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 at the age of 36. She underwent chemotherapy, radiotherapy, a lumpectomy and was on Tamoxifen for four years. She has just recently been discharged and finished active treatment. Her mum and sister were both diagnosed with breast cancer in December and January last year.

Sal said: “My diagnosis was a complete shock, for me and my whole family, and I found the treatment very hard at times. Gurveer was starting a new job with a week of training just after I discovered my lump. I really pushed back the fear, acted like a hero and let him go and decided to brave an appointment with a breast cancer surgeon by myself. A million things were going through my mind and my whole life kept echoing in my head but with that I thought, Gurveer cannot not turn up on his first day in a new job. I left my children with my neighbour and went on to be told that my lump was very suspicious. That evening, I was told that it was very suspicious and biopsies were taken immediately and sent away. Gurveer was called back after 2 days. I can still remember the days that unfolded, we were being forced into a world that was unknown to both of us. I felt that my life was halted and I was being taken down a different path. I always count myself lucky to find my lump when I did, and also for my mum and my sister, we are all well, things could have turned out different.

“Our boys were just five and eight at the time, and I found it very hard during bad chemo weeks when I couldn’t spend time with them. It really did feel like a whole summer was snatched from us when I was going through treatment.”

Gurveer, 41, is a Medical Sales Executive.

Gurveer said: “When she was first diagnosed I felt like things were out of my control, and felt that we were plunged into a situation that we knew nothing about. I’m not saying I’m the strongest guy, but after the initial shock of her diagnosis I do hope that I coped and supported Sal the best I could.

“Sal doesn’t realise how strong she is, staying positive for herself but also everyone around her. Even when she has been really down, she has always picked herself up, and turned things around and lived life to the max.”

Their relationship

Sal said: “Gurveer is very hardworking, strong and stable. He once said he felt angry as he could protect us from everything but Cancer, my diagnosis of breast cancer, was out of his control. I think my smooth recovery was due to the fact that I did have the love and support from Gurveer as well as family and friends. We found humour on some of the darkest days and we never stopped being the couple that we always were.”

Gurveer said: “As we have known each other for 23 years and have been married for 17, there is no one that knows me better and shares my interests and life goals as much as Sal. Recent challenges have only brought is closer as we have pulled each other supportively over many of the hurdles that life has thrown our way. Sal doesn’t realise how strong she is. She has always picked herself up, and turned things around and live life to the max.”

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REBECCA & TOM

Rebecca and Tom are partners from Lichfield, Staffordshire. They met working in Entertainment on a Cruise Ship. They have an 18 month old baby boy.

About their experience of breast cancer

Rebecca 38, was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2017 just after giving birth to her son, Jimmy. She had a single mastectomy and radiotherapy. She is currently on Herceptin and will be having a second mastectomy within the next 6 months.  

Rebecca said: “I’d given birth in the February and so I was breast feeding. I noticed a hard mass in my breast, but I thought this was to do with breast feeding. Looking back, Jimmy wasn’t latching on and I had a gut feeling something was wrong, but I was told there was nothing to worry about. I didn’t think it was anything to worry about. But after going to the GP a few times I was referred to the breast clinic and it was then that I was diagnosed with breast cancer.”

Tom, 26, is a Booking Coordinator for a travel company.

Tom said: “Becky and I met on a cruise ship in Australia before travelling the world and living THE life. It wasn’t quite love at first sight - we were ‘just’ friends for nearly a year before one thing led to another! We were together on the ship for just over six months before Becky fell pregnant in Germany in June 2016. After the birth of our beautiful child Jimmy in February 2017 we were both over the moon and extremely proud parents. However, it wasn’t long before Becky had big concerns about her breast; our fears were confirmed just weeks later when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and this was when everything changed.”

Their relationship

Rebecca said: “Two years ago, what started as a cruise ship love romance then became the biggest change of our lives. Through the birth of our baby and becoming new parents, to my diagnosis and treatment, Tom has been my rock. The challenges we’ve faced have made us stronger and have certainly tested how strong our relationship could be.”

Tom said: “Although Becky’s diagnosis and subsequent treatment has been an incredibly worrying and scary time, our relationship has grown stronger and we faced the challenge ahead together. Throughout the whole journey, I cannot believe how strong Becky has been and I am so proud of what she has achieved over the past year.”

About Breast Cancer Now

M&S has worked with Breast Cancer Now (via its heritage charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer) since 2001. During this time, M&S has raised £28 million for the charity’s cutting-edge research and public health engagement, including the Breast Cancer Now Generations Study, a study following more than 113,000 UK women over 40 years to help better understand the causes of breast cancer.   

Breast Cancer Now is the UK’s largest breast cancer charity.

Breast Cancer Now’s ambition is that by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live – and live well. The charity is determined to stop women dying from the disease, working in a new, collaborative way and bringing together all those affected by the disease to fund research, share knowledge and find answers.

Breast Cancer Now’s world-class research is focused entirely on breast cancer. The charity supports nearly 380 of the world’s brightest researchers at 31 institutions across the UK and Ireland. Together, they’re working to discover how to prevent breast cancer, how to detect it earlier and how to treat it effectively at every stage so we can stop the disease taking lives. 

Breast cancer is still the most common cancer in the UK. Nearly 700,000 people living in the UK have experienced a diagnosis and one in eight women will face it in their lifetime. This year alone, around 55,000 women and 350 men will be told they have the disease.

The UK still has one of the lowest breast cancer survival rates in Western Europe and this year alone around 11,500 women will lose their lives. It’s time to act.

Breast Cancer Now launched in June 2015, created by the merger of leading research charities Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

For more information on Breast Cancer Now’s work, visit breastcancernow.org or follow us on Twitter or on Facebook.

About M&S

M&S is a unique retailer with a great heritage. We operate Food, Clothing & Home and other retail businesses using the M&S own-brand model, focused on delivering great value for money. Although primarily based in the UK, we sell into 57 countries from 1,463 stores and websites around the world. We employ 81,000 colleagues serving about 32 million customers. For more information visit corporate.marksandspencer.com.