A mum diagnosed with incurable breast cancer has revealed how her illness actually helped to save her marriage .
Helen Blackmore, 44, from Suffolk, had been separated from her husband Neil, 50, for almost a year when she noticed a lump in one of her breasts.
At the time, she decided to keep her concerns to herself, telling herself that she'd get Christmas out of the way before going to get checked.
After tests, she was given the terrifying news that while her breast cancer was treatable, it was incurable.
But it was only a few months later that she decided to reveal all to her ex.
Helen said: "My husband Neil and I had been drifting apart for a while and a redundancy, new home, family illness and financial pressures had taken their toll on our relationship.
"We stopped talking and our marriage eventually broke down in January 2017. I knew we’d never get back together.
"In December that year, I was getting dressed when I noticed one breast was suddenly bigger than the other. Then I thought I could feel a lump. With it being Christmas and having two children from a previous relationship, I put off going to the doctor until the New Year.
"In 2018, I was referred to hospital for a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy, before returning for my results. I no longer had Neil to hold my hand, so I took a friend.
"I will never forget the moment the doctor said I had a large invasive tumour that had already spread to my lymph nodes. I’m 42 but my life is over, I thought.
"Further tests revealed the cancer had spread to my neck and spine and although treatable, my breast cancer was incurable.
"Months later, I spotted Neil in the local supermarket and it made me think – if he had seen me, he would have known by my appearance I was unwell. And if it was the other way around, I would have wanted to know.
"So that night I emailed him telling him everything.
"Neil was devastated. He couldn’t believe it and told me it was so unfair. Of all people, why you? he wrote. We stayed in touch and it soon became clear that we both still cared deeply for each other.
"Eventually I suggested meeting up to take the dog for a walk and we were both so nervous. As we strolled along together, I realised how much I missed him.
"I really didn’t expect to start dating again but we did, and we took things very slowly. It was like meeting all over again, but better! He supported me throughout hospital appointments and I was so happy to have him there.
"In January 2019, a scan revealed that the tumour that had shrunk was growing again, so I had a double mastectomy. Chemo had made me feel unfeminine – my long hair had fallen out, I had lost fingernails and now I had lost my breasts too.
"But Neil told me I was still beautiful and said: ‘You can’t go out for a nice meal and have a decent conversation with a pair of boobs. It’s you I want.'
"Now my cancer is stable and my marriage is better than it’s ever been. Though we are living separately, Neil and I plan to move in together soon.
"We have so much fun together and actually talk, something we were never very good at. Everything that has happened has made us realise how much we love each other.
"I don't know how long I have left to live but I am enjoying my time with my husband, friends and family. If it wasn’t for me having cancer, Neil and I may never have got back together. Somehow, cancer changed me for the better and it saved my marriage in the process."
*Challenge yourself to a Pink Ribbon Walk for Breast Cancer Now and show your support with every step for anyone affected by breast cancer. Find out more and register today .
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