A father and daughter simultaneously undergoing chemotherapy this week made an emotional appeal for people not to delay getting tested for cancer.
North London mum-of-three Sarah Rubin started treatment for breast cancer last week and dad Graham is having chemo for stage 4 pancreatic cancer in Liverpool.
“When I was diagnosed, I was just pleased it was me and not the children,” he said. “They say a parent is only as happy as their unhappiest child, so receiving the news about Sarah was a huge body blow. But we are going to fight.
“The reality is that I’m having palliative care. My goal is to live long enough to see her well.”
He added: “I want people to understand that I have been lucky. I have a wonderful family with eight grandchildren and an amazing wife. We’ve been married for 44 years.”
Sarah, 40, was diagnosed with breast cancer in December after she found a lump. She said: “I now know it was nothing to do with genetics, just coincidence.”
Graham, 69, said: “My symptoms were mild; I had a bit of a sore back and had lost a bit of weight, but being proactive about your health should be a lesson to everyone, as health is more important than anything else.
“It was in the height of the first lockdown, which made it very difficult to get a medical appointment as all the hospitals were full with Covid patients, but we managed to get to London for tests.”
His daughter added: “That’s the problem with pancreatic cancer. You never catch it early enough, so it’s crucial people don’t wait to be tested. Finding I had cancer came as a huge shock to me as I felt – and still do – absolutely fine.”
The following month she had a mastectomy and on this year’s World Cancer Day, 4 February, she found out her treatment plan: 16 rounds of chemo, then radiotherapy, then more surgery.
“It was a poignant day to find all this out on,” said Sarah, who plans to document some of her journey on social media to help others.
While Graham, who is having his third type of chemotherapy, under The Christie Hospital, has the BRCA 2 gene, Sarah found out that she does not, but both want to do all they can to raise awareness of BRCA 2 and encourage people to get tested.
Sarah, who works with her father on retail business Chums.co.uk, said: “When dad found out he had it and I was diagnosed, I thought I must have it too. This assumption was backed up by my geneticist, who said I had an 80 percent probability of also having BRCA 2. What are the chances of a father and daughter having cancer at the same time?
“Although I don’t have it, it’s so important for people to get tested, particularly Jewish people, who might be more at risk.”
“My dad and I are quite private people, but if I can raise some awareness about breast cancer from posting about it on Instagram, then this can only be a positive thing.”
One-in-40 Ashkenazi Jewish women are believed to have a BRCA gene mutation, which raises a person’s risk of getting breast cancer, ovarian cancer and other cancers at a young age. Sarah’s sister, Rebecca, and brothers, Adam and Josh, are in the process of being tested for the gene. Their mother, Shelley, is a survivor of thyroid cancer 25 years ago.
Sarah’s children are Bobby, nine, Jesse, eight, and Sonny, five. “I’m trying to be as open with them as I can about my treatment,” she said.
On Wednesdays Sarah and Graham have chemotherapy simultaneously.
Her parents, members of the Childwall Hebrew Congregation in Liverpool, formed a support bubble with her several months ago and are hoping to travel to London this weekend to see her.
Graham said: “I want my wife Shelley to go to London more to be with Sarah, even if it means getting carers for me. We can’t bear the thought of her going through this on her own.”
He adds: “It’s a bit shmaltzy I know, but the black clouds will pass and the sun will come out again. I’m praying Sarah will get back to normal health.”
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