If it had not been for losing four stone, Deb Peters believes she may never have discovered she had cancer.
Months after starting a new fitness regime – which included taking up netball – the mum-of-four spotted a worrying lump in her breast.
And her consultant told her she was “lucky to have lost the weight” because it meant the life-threatening cancer was caught early.
“I would never have seen it before I lost the weight,” she said.
“It was tiny. I didn’t feel it but spotted it in the mirror when I got out of the shower. It was only a centimetre big.
“The consultant said I was lucky to have lost the weight.
“I certainly would not have seen it so soon otherwise.”
Mrs Peters, of Pill, North Somerset, had not really done any sport before suddenly taking the decision to get fit about 18 months ago.
She went along to netball, started swimming with her son who had recently left the Army and took up running.
Now the classroom assistant plays netball, swims more than 800 lengths and runs the equivalent of more than a marathon every week. She continued her regime even when having radiotherapy treatment in March.
It was after picking up a leaflet about netball that Mrs Peters decided to go back to the sport she had played at school in a club at St Bede’s in Lawrence Weston, Bristol.
She also joined a running club at Penny Brohn Cancer Care which is based near her home.
“I do think that everything happens for a reason. What on Earth made me think after 30 years I’m going to get fit?” she said
“I didn’t do anything before. But three of the children were at school across the road and didn’t need picking up and dropping off. I was a bit bored and thought I would just do something.”
So she took up the three sports all at the same time.
“The netball is fantastic because you are doing it with other people from all walks of life and you get a camaraderie you don’t really get on your own with swimming and running,” Mrs Peters said.
“I always loved netball at school and I am quite competitive.
“It’s fun and it’s for everybody. We’ve got teenage girls up to women in their 60s.
“I went back a couple of weeks after my operation and could take it at my own pace.”
Mrs Peters has completed the Bristol Half Marathon and Great North Run with her husband this year.
She has also taken part in the Race for Life twice – the first time, before she had started running and was diagnosed with cancer and she said it did not occur to her to run the 5k event at the time.
“When I started running everyone laughed but I gradually got more and more into it,” she said.
“And then I nagged Keith to come out with me and now we pretty much always run together.”
Mrs Peters said that when she saw the lump in her breast, which was close to her armpit she had a feeling something was not right.
“I went to the doctor, and I had had lumps before that had been nothing,” she said.
“Everything happened so quickly. You go from not thinking about cancer or knowing anything about cancer to meeting the cancer nurse and deciding whether you are going to have a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. It’s really surreal.”
And then there was telling the family, Dan, 26, Tom, 18, and twins Kate and George, 15.
The lump was removed during surgery at St Michael’s Hospital on December 22. A couple of Mrs Peters’ lymph nodes were also taken and tested while she was in the operating theatre to see if the cancer had spread, which luckily it had not.
Radiotherapy followed for a month and now Mrs Peters, who is married to Keith, is on medication every day for the next five years.
Mrs Peters was told she could not do anything for two weeks after the operation but she pretty much returned to her fitness regime.
“Apart from the two weeks off after the operation I have done the same thing pretty much every day, all through radiotherapy was the same.
On some days I was really, really tired but would still go to the pool. If I was not up to driving, Keith would drop me off at the pool but I would still swim.”
She said that she did not really feel unwell during her treatment but that feeling tired was the main thing.
“I wanted cancer to be the smallest part of my life.
“And when I was having treatment it was good to know that I was going out to netball later I felt I was going to see my friends and have a game.”