TO lose your mum at 16 to cancer is a tragedy.
To find out you have high odds of contracting the same devastating disease is simply cruel.
Those were the stark circumstances that faced Wendy Watson at a young age.
But the inspiring mum-of-one, refused to give-in to the strong family history of breast cancer and decided to do battle with it instead.
Her book I’m Still Standing – released today – is Wendy’s remarkable life story of how she became the first woman in the UK to have preventative double mastectomy to cheat a “death sentence” and then go on to launch the world’s first Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline.
Wendy is well known in Derbyshire for her tireless work to support and offer advice to women who find themselves in a similar position to what she was in.
Her bright and bubbly personality shines through in her autobiography. I’m Still Standing will have particular appeal for anyone who has had the misfortune to come across breast cancer but it’s also an inspiring, uplifting tale of what a bit of Derbyshire grit and determination can achieve.
There are many laughs including a chapter on Wendy’s days as holiday rep where she diced with death on a motorbike. And her farming days, rescuing lambs and searching for cows in a snow blizzard during an unforgiving Peak District winter.
Entwined in this is the more serious side. Many people probably won’t realise that Wendy had to badger the doctors to remove what she called her “ticking time bombs,” because at the time doctors did not recognise a genetic link to breast cancer.
Appalled at the lack of support for women in a similar position the book explains how the now established National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline came about and the continuing battle she faces to keep it operating.
It also looks at Wendy’s heartache at discovering her daughter Becky - who helps to run the 24 hour helpline - was also found to carry the suspect gene and became the youngest woman at the time to have a preventative double mastectomy age 24.
“I just hope that people find it an enjoyable read,” said Wendy. “Others have said it’s an inspirational but I have only done what needed doing.”
l I’m Still Standing is available, priced £6.99, from Waterstones, Tesco, Amazon and online websites.