Sandra Greene, from Cheslyn Hay, was doing a training run towards the end of spring last year when her bra became uncomfortable and started rubbing her chest.
And when the 54-year-old checked the cause of the irritation, she found a bumpy vein on her left breast which felt "wrong" and would later be confirmed as breast cancer.
Now, having overcome the cancer, she is calling on others to put on their running shoes and take on Cancer Research UK's Race for Life with events across the region.
Sandra, who went to Cheslyn Hay High School and now lives in Grays in Essex, is among those to have taken part in Race for Life, with multiple family members from the West Midlands also having been affected by the disease.
She said: "My experience of Race for Life is it’s very high energy and I think the important thing to get across is you don’t have to be somebody who can run 5k or whatever the distance is - there are probably more people just walking or jogging round than there are running.
"There are all ages and all abilities, and they have pictures of and messages for people they have lost or are running for on their T-shirts, so it’s very uplifting. It’s clear everybody is there for their own personal reasons, but for a common goal."
Sandra has raised £3,000 to £4,000 by doing Cancer Research UK running events and was training for another when she discovered her bumpy vein.
She said: "I was really getting into my training when I realised that my bra was rubbing my chest. It was a sports bra that I’d worn on many occasions and had always been comfortable, but, suddenly, it just felt wrong.”
When Sandra returned home, she immediately checked her breast and felt a bump – admitting she wasn't "too concerned" but booked an appointment with her GP due to her family history.
Sandra’s first run for Cancer Research UK was Race for Life in Basildon, Essex, after her mother-in-law, Cathy Greene, from the county, was diagnosed with lung cancer in July 2015. Cathy sadly died three months later, at just two years older than Sandra is now.
Also in 2015, Sandra’s two sisters, Susan Hayward, who lives in Cheslyn Hay, and Sharon Delmont, who moved to Leeds after her time in Cheslyn Hay, found out they had breast cancer within three months of each other. Both were cleared of the disease last year.
A cousin, Karen Jones, from Great Wyrley, is recovering from chemotherapy for breast cancer, whilst an aunt, Anne McDonald, from Cheslyn Hay, was recently told she had secondary breast cancer.
Sandra’s father, David Brough, from Cheslyn Hay as well, is living with prostate cancer at the age of 87, having been diagnosed nine years ago.
With all this experience of cancer in the family, particularly after what Susan and Sharon had been through, Sandra was not immediately phased by her diagnosis. However, a further MRI scan revealed Sandra had multifocal lobular breast cancer – two tumours, with the second tumour not picked up on mammogram or ultrasound.
“That’s when I started to get really concerned. This was a different diagnosis to my sisters and I just didn’t know what I was dealing with. I started to panic, but my husband was brilliant, reassuring me I would come through this," she said.
Following a mastectomy and immediate reconstruction in October, she was told she would not need chemotherapy, nor radiotherapy as the affected breast tissue had been removed. Instead, she was placed on hormone therapy for seven years.
Sandra, an ombudsman, who lives with husband Neil and youngest son Callum, 16, is now looking ahead with positivity.
"Thanks to research I didn’t need to have chemotherapy or radiotherapy," she said.
"Now, I feel so grateful to be here and I’m looking forward to the future. We’re hoping to go to America this year to visit my eldest son, Bradley, who’s there on a football scholarship, and hopefully meet up with so many people we couldn’t meet during lockdowns. And, of course, I’m looking forward to taking part in lots more running challenges.
"It could have been a very different story if I hadn’t paid attention to my bra rubbing against my skin. Thank goodness I checked as my cancer was caught early. That sports bra saved my life!"
Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is a series of 3K, 5K, 10K, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids events that raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer by funding crucial research.
There are events happening across the West Midlands from May to July, kicking off with Sutton Park Race for Life on May 8, open to women, men and children of all ages and abilities.
Jane Redman, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson in the West Midlands, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Sandra for sharing her and her family’s cancer story to support us in encouraging people to sign up for Race for Life.
“Sadly, cancer affects all of us in some way. Whether people are living with cancer, taking part in honour of or in memory of a loved one with cancer, or signing up to protect their own children’s future, everyone has a reason to Race for Life. So, we’re asking people across the region: “Who will you Race for?”
“Our Race for Life events are open to all. As Sandra reflected, for some people, the Race for Life is literally a walk in the park - slow and steady still wins. For others, it’s a jog. Others may opt to push themselves harder, taking up the challenge of the 10K distance and even pushing for a new personal best time.
“But what is for certain is we’re looking forward to welcoming people of all ages and abilities. Race for Life across the West Midlands will be fun, emotional, colourful, uplifting and an unforgettable series of events this year.”
Fnd out more at raceforlife.cancerresearchuk.org