Sisters who were diagnosed with cancer are 'strength to each other'

Woman, 50, says her greatest fear was that her younger sister would die when they were both diagnosed with breast cancer just six weeks apart – because being the survivor would ‘ruin her’

  •  Tracey Pinfold, Yorkshire and Cathy Corr living in Berkshire, were diagnosed with breast cancer within six weeks apart
  •  The two sisters are a ‘great strength to each other’ and vow to keep smiling
  •  The have raised £18,000 for Cancer Research doing nine Race For Life 10k runs
  • They also lost their father to pancreatic cancer and their mother to lung cancer 

Two sisters who were diagnosed with breast cancer within six weeks of each are a ‘great strength to each other’ and have raised £18,000 for Cancer Research doing nine Race For Life 10K runs.

Despite being nearly 200 miles apart, with Tracey Pinfold, 50, living in South Cave, Yorkshire, and Cathy Corr, 47, living in Windsor, Berkshire, the sisters have been a constant support to each other. 

The pair saw their lives turned upside down between December 2016 and January 2017 after they discovered abnormalities on their breasts and discovered they both had stage two breast cancer.   

Sisters Tracey Pinfold, 50, (left) living in South Cave, Yorkshire, and Cathy Corr, 47, (right) living in Windsor, Berkshire, who were diagnosed with breast cancer within six weeks of each are a ‘great strength to each other’

Tracey (left) and Cathy pair saw their lives turned upside down between December 2016 and January 2017 after they discovered abnormalities on their breasts and discovered they both had stage two breast cancer

Having already lost their father to pancreatic cancer in 1979 and their mother to lung cancer in 2008, Tracey, a specialised personal trainer, and Cathy, a logistics business owner, had gruelling chemotherapy and mastectomies, but showed fierce determination to survive.

Now, nearly five years on, after facing the disease together, the sisters are planning to create their own charity to support young women and raise awareness of breast cancer.

Tracey, who lives with her marketing director husband, Richard Pinfold, 50, and their severely autistic son, Jacob Pinfold, 21, said: ‘Cancer is such a big part of our family and you realise how lucky you are to be alive.

Now, nearly five years on, after facing the disease together, the sisters are planning to create their own charity to support young women and raise awareness of breast cancer

The pair have raised £18,000 for Cancer Research doing nine Race For Life 10k runs across Hull, Harrogate, Exeter, Windsor, Belfast, Leeds, London, Aylesbury, and York

Tracey, a specialised personal trainer, pictured in hospital while going through gruelling chemotherapy after having a mastectomy

Cathy sleeping after treatment in 2017. The logistics business owner, found a lump in her right breast and was referred to the breast cancer clinic, which revealed she also had stage two breast cancer

‘We are so grateful for the fact we are here to tell our story for our family and do what we can to save other people’s lives.’

It was around November 2016 when Tracey, then a full-time carer for her 16 year old son Jacob, booked a regular GP appointment to check her left breast, after her husband raised the alarm when he realised she had an inverted nipple.

‘I felt tired but I wasn’t ill, so I was confident that it was nothing,’ she said.

But, within 60 seconds of her appointment at the breast cancer clinic on December 7, Tracey was told it would likely be bad news. 

Tracey: ‘She told me she was 99.9 per cent confident I had cancer, I went to the disabled toilets and I couldn’t breathe and was hyperventilating.

Tracey, who lives with her marketing director husband, Richard Pinfold, 50, said cancer is ‘such a big part of our family’ 

It was around November 2016 when Tracey, then a full-time carer for her 16-year-old son Jacob (left), booked a regular GP appointment to check her left breast

The siblings lost their father Pat Corr to pancreatic cancer in 1979 and their mother Frances to lung cancer in 2008 (The pair on their wedding day in 1963)

On January 12 Tracey had a mastectomy and reconstruction as a preventative measure before beginning six rounds of chemotherapy

Tracey revealed once everything started and the battle commenced, she was like, ‘We need to deal with this. We can do this’ (pictured with Cathy in 2017 before Cathy began treatment)

‘I was terrified of dying because my son is so vulnerable. I was just thinking ‘I can’t die, Jacob needs me’.

‘But once everything started and the battle commenced, I was like, ‘We need to deal with this. We can do this.’

By January 12, as Tracey had a mastectomy and reconstruction as a preventative measure before beginning six rounds of chemotherapy, Cathy became alarmed that something was wrong after finding a lump in her own right breast.

She was confident it was nothing, but Cathy was referred to the breast cancer clinic, which revealed she also had stage two breast cancer.

The sisters , pictured wearing their wigs after losing their hair, said they are so grateful for the fact we are here to tell their story and ‘do what we can to save other people’s lives’

Cathy, who lives with her wife, Alana Corr, 42,  (right) a nursing care home manager, did her best to find the funny side in her ‘sharing’ breast cancer with her sister, but deep down, found the diagnosis frightening, given their family history

‘I burst into tears when she told me,’ Tracey said.

‘We didn’t know it was stage two at that point and my fear was that she was going to die because that would ruin me.

‘I was terrified I would be the survivor and she wouldn’t be.’

Both given a prognosis of 20 years to live, Cathy, who lives with her wife, Alana Corr, 42, a nursing care home manager, did her best to find the funny side in her ‘sharing’ breast cancer with her sister, but deep down, found the diagnosis frightening, given their family history.

Growing up in Maghery, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, with their five other siblings – including Tracey’s twin, Tony – the family was forced to deal with grief at an early age.

Ten years after losing their father Pat Corr to pancreatic cancer, they lost their youngest sister, Rosemary, in a car crash, aged 13, in 1989.

‘We have always been very conscious of cancer in our family,’ Tracey said.

Growing up in Maghery, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, with their five other siblings – including Tracey’s twin, Tony – the family was forced to deal with grief at an early age (Cathy and Tracey with their mum and family)

 They lost their youngest sister, Rosemary, in a car crash, aged 13, in 1989 (pictured Cathy Tracey and Tony with a bag dedicated to their late sister Rosemary)

‘My daddy died very quickly, just 10 days after his 40th birthday, when I was seven and Cathy was four.

‘There were two weeks between his diagnosis and his death.

‘Our mum, Frances Corr, was a heavy smoker and died when she was 67 from lung cancer in 2008.

‘We had two years with her together after her diagnosis before she died, which were really precious.’

‘The first thing Cathy said to me when she found out was, ‘You can’t die on me’,’ said Tracey.

‘But we were a great strength to each other and we could help each other.

‘We went to some of each other’s appointments together and we would compare symptoms or treatment and that made such a difference.

The sisters were all a great strength to each other and they could help each other (pictured the sisters at Cathy’s hen do)

Their mum, Frances Corr, was a heavy smoker and died when she was 67 from lung cancer in 2008 (Tracey, Patricia and Cathy with their mum in 2007)

During her treatment Tracey also juggled her son’s transition to a residential school during her treatment, again with the support of her husband and family (pictured with her husband Richard) 

 Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world and affects more than two MILLION women a year

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Each year in the UK there are more than 55,000 new cases, and the disease claims the lives of 11,500 women. In the US, it strikes 266,000 each year and kills 40,000. But what causes it and how can it be treated?

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer develops from a cancerous cell which develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.

When the breast cancer has spread into surrounding breast tissue it is called an ‘invasive’ breast cancer. Some people are diagnosed with ‘carcinoma in situ’, where no cancer cells have grown beyond the duct or lobule.

Most cases develop in women over the age of 50 but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can develop in men though this is rare.

Staging means how big the cancer is and whether it has spread. Stage 1 is the earliest stage and stage 4 means the cancer has spread to another part of the body.

The cancerous cells are graded from low, which means a slow growth, to high, which is fast growing. High grade cancers are more likely to come back after they have first been treated.

What causes breast cancer?

A cancerous tumour starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or alters certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply ‘out of control’.

Although breast cancer can develop for no apparent reason, there are some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing breast cancer, such as genetics.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

The usual first symptom is a painless lump in the breast, although most breast lumps are not cancerous and are fluid filled cysts, which are benign. 

The first place that breast cancer usually spreads to is the lymph nodes in the armpit. If this occurs you will develop a swelling or lump in an armpit.

How is breast cancer diagnosed?

  • Initial assessment: A doctor examines the breasts and armpits. They may do tests such as a mammography, a special x-ray of the breast tissue which can indicate the possibility of tumours.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is removed from a part of the body. The sample is then examined under the microscope to look for abnormal cells. The sample can confirm or rule out cancer.

If you are confirmed to have breast cancer, further tests may be needed to assess if it has spread. For example, blood tests, an ultrasound scan of the liver or a chest x-ray.                                For more information visit breastcancercare.org.uk, breastcancernow.org or www.cancerhelp.org.uk

‘We are so lucky to have such a good support network though and the whole family did everything they could to support us.’

For Tracey, the treatment was particularly gruelling, causing ulcers in her mouth, black nails and sore teeth, while Cathy struggled with aches pains, constant nausea and severe spasms.

‘The fatigue was probably the worst bit with the weakness and just everything hurting,’ Tracey said.

‘I had ulcers in my mouth and my nails turned black which was horrible.

‘It was week one which was always the worst and then slowly I would start to feel like I could take on the world again.’

Tracey also juggled her son’s transition to a residential school during her treatment, again with the support of her husband and family.

‘It was super important for me that we didn’t deny Jacob any contact with me,’ she said.

‘We wanted to make sure that he still got access to me, but also that he wasn’t leaning on me if I was feeling ill.

‘It’s amazing when you’ve got somebody who relies on you how much strength it gives you.

‘He gave me a purpose to get out of bed in the morning, even if I didn’t feel like it.’

In reverse to Tracey’s treatment, Cathy had six rounds of chemotherapy in June 2017 before having a mastectomy later in the year and reconstructive surgery in 2018.

But despite both losing their hair and having mastectomies and aggressive medication, the sisters continued to work at their respective jobs, both doing around 30 hours a week, with Tracey at David Lloyd in York and Cathy as a regional manager with Vodafone.

‘It gave us a purpose and it was a distraction,’ Tracey said.

‘It got us out of bed in the morning, we didn’t want to become people who sat on their beds doing nothing. We are just not those kind of people.’

As the sisters got over the worst of their treatment, they began to discuss ways to give back to Cancer Research.

Between May and July 2018, Tracey and Cathy both signed up for and ran nine Race For Life 10k runs across Hull, Harrogate, Exeter, Windsor, Belfast, Leeds, London, Aylesbury, and York, raising a whopping £18,000.

With each run, the sisters were joined by friends and family across the country, who would run alongside them every step of the way.

‘Seeing everybody was so emotional and crossing the finish line with them all was incredible,’ Tracey said.

‘It felt like a real girl power thing, like women united together.’

With both sisters hoping to be given the all clear in June and July, they are making the most of every single day – with Tracey setting up her own rehabilitation personal training company, called Exercise Prescription, which will create plans for people living with a variety of chronic conditions.

‘When I came out of treatment, I was really frustrated that I couldn’t find any professional help anywhere for personal training for my recovery and I started to realise it was something I could help make available,’ Tracey added.

Meanwhile, Cathy, who is aunt to 11 nieces and nephews, started her own logistics programme in September 2021, building a team of 55 people with 39 distribution vans, as well as setting up an electric vehicle charging facilities company.

Cathy said: ‘I treat every day like it’s my last day. That’s why I took this huge step. It was always my dream to start a company and be my own boss.

‘And I have thought if, God forbid, this did come back, I want to be able to go in and say, ‘Well, I’ve demonstrated to my nieces and nephews that no matter what’s thrown at you, you can still move forward.’

Cathy, who is aunt to 11 nieces and nephews, started her own logistics programme in September 2021, building a team of 55 people with 39 distribution vans, as well as setting up an electric vehicle charging facilities company

‘There are so many family members that aren’t as lucky as us and that really resonates with us.

‘We are very appreciative of the fact that we are still here to tell our story.’

Tracey and Cathy are also preparing for three more Race For Life races across Hull, Windsor and Harrogate between May and July this year and have already raised £1,000 for Cancer Research.

But as well as their business ventures and racing plans, the sisters are also setting up a charity named What A Pair to raise awareness of breast cancer.

‘We want people to check themselves and help save lives,’ Cathy said.

‘Tracey and I were so grateful to have each other to talk to and discuss the treatment and symptoms and everything, because this is a life changing thing.

‘But once you’ve had your treatment, you get sent off and there is no after care there, so we want to give someone that peace of mind and offer that support mechanism post cancer.’

With both sisters hoping to be given the all clear in June and July, they are making the most of every single day – with Tracey setting up her own rehabilitation personal training company, called Exercise Prescription, which will create plans for people living with a variety of chronic conditions

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