Courageous north Norfolk mother and daughter tell of their cancer battle to give hope to others

Linda Cossey and her daughter Sandra who were told they had the BRCA gene. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Linda Cossey and her daughter Sandra who were told they had the BRCA gene. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A brave mother and daughter have spoken out about their battle with breast cancer - which saw them both undergo double mastectomies - in a bid to help others going through the same painful journey.

Angelina Jolie also carries the BRCA gene and has undergone a double mastectomy. Photo: Dan Kitwood

Angelina Jolie also carries the BRCA gene and has undergone a double mastectomy. Photo: Dan Kitwood/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Linda Cossey, 64, and her daughter Sandra Root, 41, were determined not to let the deadly disease beat them and opted for the life-changing surgery to stop the cancer in its tracks.

Mrs Root, from Neatishead, also under went a hysterectomy and Mrs Cossey, having previously had a hysterectomy, had her ovaries removed to guard against ovarian cancer. But throughout the difficult experience the pair have remained as upbeat as possible and faced the disease head on.

Mrs Cossey, from Happisburgh, said: 'Cancer is a word you dread but when you're told, you think I have got to fight this, I'm not going to die.

'It's a horrible time but you have got to be positive, the alternative is not good.'


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Their world was turned upside down in August 2010 when Mrs Cossey found a lump in her breast and was subsequently diagnosed with cancer.

The lump was removed on the August bank holiday and she then under went a gruelling course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy over Christmas and New Year.

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After 21 weeks of treatment doctors then asked if they could test her and her family for the BRCA gene - the same as that carried by American actress Angelina Jolie - as the family had a history of cancer. The results came through in early 2012 and confirmed Mrs Cossey was a carrier of the faulty gene and there was an 85pc chance her cancer would return.

A few months later Mrs Root's results revealed she was also a carrier and faced an 80pc lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, and a 50pc chance of ovarian cancer.

Facing the devastating diagnosis both mother and daughter bravely decided to undergo a double mastectomy, as well as the other surgeries to shield them from ovarian cancer.

Mrs Cossey, a grandmother-of-seven, said: 'I didn't even hesitate. When you're faced with those odds there's no choice, you have to have it done.'

Mum-of-three Mrs Root added: 'I knew if I carried it I would definitely have the surgery. I could have had regular screening (for breast cancer) but I said there's no way I can go through that waiting to have it done and waiting for the results.'

She also wanted to prevent her daughters Emily, 17, Jessica, 14, and Tilly, eight, from having to go through the same painful experience she did with her mum.

'I needed to have it done so I wouldn't go through what mum went through, and I didn't want my girls to see that,' she added.

There is a 50pc chance her daughters could be passed the faulty gene, but Mrs Root hopes medicine will advance in time so they may not have to make the same decision, if they were to carry it.

She is now preparing for the final stages of her reconstructive surgery, after under going her mastectomy in January, while Mrs Cossey wears prosthetics.

The pair have both been helped by the Big C and Keeping Abreast, a national charity which supports women going through or considering reconstructive surgery, and despite all they have been through, they were keen to give something back.

They have since hosted two fundraising garden parties at Mrs Cossey's Short Lane house, which have made more than £4,100 for the two charities.

And the pair are now urging others to get checked out if they are worried about symptoms, and have stressed the importance of early screening.

'Don't let it beat you,' Mrs Cossey said. 'There's so much to go on for.'

Keeping Abreast runs groups in Norwich, King's Lynn, Stalham, Cromer and Wymondham, and helps women through all stages of reconstructive surgery. For more details visit www.keepingabreast.photium.com.

For more details about the Big C visit www.big-c.co.uk

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