Pictured, from left, at Parliament Hill School: Deanna and Maree Butler, Ella Bou-Assaf, Amarilda Berdica, Tabhiya Manjur and Tamika Mitchell
Published: 3 May, 2012
by PAVAN AMARA
A BREAST cancer survivor is on a mission to educate Camden teenagers about the disease – and how to avoid it through a healthy lifestyle.
Maree Butler, 38, who lives in Chalk Farm with her husband George and two children, 13-year-old Deanna and seven-year-old James, was diagnosed with breast cancer in April last year.
She had a mastectomy operation at the Royal Free Hospital around a month later.
“So many children have suffered with watching someone they love go through breast cancer and I just want to make it easier for them,” said Ms Butler.
“People don’t tend to talk about these things, but breast cancer affects one in eight women.
“When I was diagnosed one of the most difficult things was seeing the kids’ little faces, it made my heart sink. I couldn’t bear it.
“But once they understood what was going on they felt much better.”
Ms Butler was prescribed the drug Tamoxifen and, last month, after finally being given the all-clear, she decided to tour Camden schools.
Last week she spoke at her first morning assembly at Parliament Hill School in Highgate Road to an audience of around 300 students aged up to 14.
She was joined by Chris Brew-Graves, a medical researcher at the Royal Free.
“The incidence is higher in affluent women, and women who have children later,” Ms Brew-Graves told the assembly.
“But you don’t have to worry about that – get rich, have children as late as you want, because they’re not the real risk factors.
“What you must remember is to get physical activity, cut down your alcohol, avoid smoking, and have a good diet – eat your five portions of fruit and veg every day.
“That is what is going to help you in decreasing your chances of getting the disease.”
She added: “Twenty years ago, if you were told your mum had breast cancer there was a reason to be terrified. Now that’s not so. There’s so much we can do, including preventing it before it even occurs by a healthy lifestyle.”
Ms Butler, who lost her mother to the disease 10 years ago, said she wants to talk at every Camden secondary school.
“Knowledge is power,” she added. “And educating young teenage girls today will save lives of the women of the future.”