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Last Updated: Monday, 6 October, 2003, 01:40 GMT 02:40 UK
'The internet saved my life'
Jane Elliott
BBC News Online health staff

Alva Rudkin
Alva did not need a mastectomy
Breast cancer patient Alva Rudkin is convinced an Internet trawl saved both her breast and her life.

When she was first diagnosed in June 2000 doctors found that she had a large tumour of 4 centimetres.

They recommended a mastectomy - the removal of her entire left breast.

But Alva, a former lawyer, was determined not to make any rash decisions and persuaded doctors to delay operating until she had time to make a considered opinion.


A search of the internet soon convinced her that the way forward was chemotherapy before surgery in order to reduce the tumour. She also found interesting data about the positive affect of flaxseed oils on the tumour.

"I though chemotherapy made perfect sense to me. It was a systemic way of treating the cancer throughout my body."

My Internet research had helped save my life
Alva Rudkin

Alva found doctors at Northampton General Hospital very receptive to her ideas, even though chemotherapy before surgery was not the norm at the time she decided on it.

She had a couple of cycles of chemotherapy and was delighted to discover that it had not only reduced her tumour, but that it had completely destroyed it.

Checks on the tissue of her breast and her lymph nodes showed that the area was now completely clear.

"My surgeon was brilliant and I persuaded him to telephone me when he got the results and to telephone me to say whether there were any malignant cells in the breast or the lymph nodes, but there were not.

"I did not need a mastectomy I did not even need a lumpectomy.

"My internet research had helped save my life.


"But despite this good news the lawyer in me wanted to have radiotherapy as a belt and braces measure and so I had six weeks of that.

"All my hair fell out, but that was brilliant because it freed me from having to do the daily hair do and it took a lot of persuading to get me to grow my hair back again."

Alva's illness prompted her to take a radical look at both her health and her life.

"I took the view that the cancer was sent to me for a reason and that was to change my life and to change my life overall. And my life overall could not be better."

She decided to eliminate toxins from her body to give it a chance to recover from the chemotherapy and eliminate meat and dairy from her daily diet.

She also started taking daily supplements of flaxseed, reputed to help reduce the oestrogen in the body and help reduce the tumours.

"I don't know whether it helped or not, but that is what I did."

Alva also started taking a range of aloe products, designed by Forever Living Products.

Often feeling too sick to eat Alva found the aloe drink provided her body with the vital nutrients it needed. She used the gel's to ease sores and burns on her body caused by the radiation and the special gel to help ease the sores in her mouth and teeth.

"I used the aloe jelly immediately before and after the radiotherapy and several times during the day and I found it to be very positive in dealing with the radiotherapy burns."


But Alva admits that she would not have been able to get through without the help and support she received from Macmillan Cancer Relief.

She trawled their website and rang their support line and found their help invaluable.

Now she is a regular fundraiser for them. She also sells aloe products and gives 1 from selected products to Macmillan funds.

"If I can do anything to put money in their pockets then that means this has been worthwhile."

October has been designated breast cancer awareness month and this year focuses on the support women and their families can receive from Macmillan's specially trained breast cancer nurses.

Each year there are 41,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the UK and although 80% of the cancers occur in post-menopausal women, 8,200 cases a year occur in women under 50 who are likely to have younger children and so require additional support.

Dame Gill Oliver of Macmillan said: "A breast cancer diagnosis is very frightening, not just for the person diagnosed.

"There is so much focus on treating the patient's cancer that the emotional needs of the carers and children can be forgotten. That's why Macmillan helps the whole family."

As part of the special month Macmillan breast care nurses are holding awareness days to explain about the symptoms of the disease and how their support networks.

For advice and support or to find out more about the help available please call the Macmillan CancerLine on freephone 0808 808 2020 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm).

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