Published on 17 August 2020
You’ll most likely find Chantele Rashbrook on a run, in the pool or giving it her all on a static bike in a spinning class.
At 49, she’s fitter than a lot of people half her age, and arranges her exercise sessions around her work as a cleaner, and time with her husband and two children.
But there’s one other commitment in her diary – chemotherapy sessions at the Viking Day Unit at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, as part of her ongoing treatment for incurable breast cancer.
Chantele will receive her 100th treatment this week – eight years after her original diagnosis, and six years after she was told it had spread to her lymph nodes and lung.
She said: “Sometimes I think my children forget I have cancer, and there are times when I have to remind them.
“It’s just part of life now; something I just do. I have treatment every third Thursday and feel a bit under the weather on the Friday and Saturday, and I do have some side effects, like my toes and fingertips are a bit numb and my tongue is quite sore and sensitive so I can’t eat certain foods.
“But when I think about the alternative, it’s nothing. It doesn’t stop me from doing anything I want to do.”
Chantele, who lives in Deal, was first diagnosed in 2012 and had a mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy, radiotherapy and then reconstructive surgery.
But the cancer returned in 2014 and had spread to her lymph nodes and lung.
She said: “When I was first diagnosed it was a real shock. I was at my fittest and it was just unbelievable.
“When I found another lump in my neck two years later I thought it must just be a raised gland. Even the breast care nurses thought it couldn’t be anything, because I had recovered so well.
“But it turned out to be the cancer, and this time they said it was incurable.
“That’s a hard word to hear but thanks to the research and new drug treatments there is a lot they can do to treat it, and to keep the tumours as small as possible.
“After five rounds of a different drug I was able to start on Kadcyla and I will have my 100th treatment this week. I’ll be on it forever unless it stops working – and then they will just find another drug that will work.”
Thanks to Kadcyla, Chantele’s tumours shrank significantly and she now has scans every four months to make sure they are not regrowing.
She has set up a breast cancer support group, as well as a running group, and since being diagnosed has completed a marathon, half marathon and many other running challenges.
She said: “I try to inspire others going through cancer. I am a very positive person and I think that makes a huge difference with recovery.
“There was a time that I couldn’t think ahead because the demons would creep in, but I don’t think like that any more. I just live my life and don’t let it bother me.
“I did have a scare last year with a lump but it was checked and it wasn’t anything to worry about. I was seen very quickly and I can’t fault the care I have received.”
Chantele’s treatment has continued during the coronavirus pandemic, and she followed government advice to shield at home when the virus was at its peak.
She said: “The treatment hasn’t felt any different, apart from the fact that we’re all wearing masks and we have our temperatures taken.
“The girls there are amazing and I feel very safe. I am part of the furniture there after so long, and everyone really is fantastic with the care they give.”
For more information on breast cancer support groups in east Kent, visit https://www.ekhuft.nhs.uk/patients-and-visitors/services/cancer-services/breast-cancer-services/