Kully Gidda was diagnosed with breast cancer after the therapist waxing her armpit noticed a lump and advised her to get it checked by a doctor.
Reluctant to miss her holiday, Kully flew to Barbados the day after her waxing appointment. But a visit to the GP when she got back led to a series of investigations culminating in a breast cancer diagnosis.
Now coming to the end of her cancer treatment, the 49-year-old is calling on women and men across the region to join her in signing up at raceforlife.org for one of Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life events in the West Midlands.
Kully and a large family group decided to brave the mud at Race for Life Pretty Muddy last year while she was in the middle of her treatment.
Together the team of ten mums, daughters, sisters and cousins raised over £4000 for Cancer Research UK’s life-saving research.
This year Kully and her daughter Jaic will be taking to the stage and sounding the horn to set the runners off at Sandwell’s Race for Life Pretty Muddy on Saturday, June 24.
It was in November 2021 that Kully decided to get in good shape for her holiday by going for a waxing session. The discovery of the lump in her armpit alarmed her but, as she was due to fly out to Barbados the following day, she decided not to tell her husband, Gurj.
It was after getting friendly with a cancer patient on holiday that Kully told her husband of her worries.
“We’d got to know this man quite well so were shocked to find out he had advanced prostate cancer,” said Kully.
“As well as the lump under my arm, I’d found lump in the other breast some weeks earlier, but I assumed it was a cyst as I’d had them before.
“All my worries about the lumps came flooding back and I told Gurj about it.
“Gurj was really worried and couldn’t believe I’d kept it from him. He insisted I go to the doctor’s the minute we got home, even though it was Christmas Eve.”
Kully was immediately referred for further investigations including mammograms and scans. On January 20, 2022 she got the results – the lump under her arm was benign, but the lump in her other breast was malignant.
Kully said: “Who would have thought that a beauty treatment could save your life? I was so glad I went for that underarm wax as it could have been months before I went to the GP if the therapist hadn’t spotted that lump.”
Kully chose to have a lumpectomy, but the surgery revealed cancer in one of her lymph nodes so she had a further operation to remove all the lymph nodes. She than had a full body scan to check there was no further spread.
Just as Kully was about to commence chemotherapy in May 2022, she took part in Race for Life Pretty Muddy at Weston Park with a family group called ‘Sister Act.’
But only days later she found another small lump under her scar tissue. A biopsy and scan revealed a small tumour in the breast and another malignant skin nodule.
Kully started chemotherapy in June, but her treatment was interrupted when she caught Covid-19, so she didn’t finish until September. After a recovery break of three weeks she had a mastectomy.
Radiotherapy was supposed to be Kully’s last hurdle, but before the treatment could start she got a call from the hospital to say they’d found a third tumour and more aggressive chemotherapy was needed.
“I was at my lowest point. I felt I couldn’t go through it all again. What was worst was that this chemo was going to be much harder than the first one and the side effects would be worse,” said Kully.
Chemotherapy lasted throughout December 2022 and January 2023, giving Kully severe side effects and spoiling another Christmas for the family.
Kully is currently having radiotherapy to mop up any remaining cancer cells and will also be treated with drugs including Tamoxifen and followed up for ten years.
She said: “This has all had a huge impact on the rest of the family, particularly my daughter Jaic (13). Gurj’s mum passed away from bowel cancer in 2020 and Jaic was really close to her grandma, or ‘Bibi ji’ as she was called in Punjabi. Jaic has been very anxious and just wants to know that my cancer has gone.
“My dad has also recently had prostate cancer, and all three of my brothers were hit hard by that. Finding out their only sister had cancer was a real blow to them. And I have had to give up work in order to focus on my health.
“Race for Life was a ray of light amid all this anxiety and upheaval. We had the most fabulous day last year with the whole family taking part or watching. We raised over £4000 and had a big picnic in the sunshine afterwards.
“Doing Pretty Muddy gave me the chance to be really up front about my cancer, which is something not openly talked about in my Sikh community. It meant the community could see that I was happy to talk, and it gave them the chance to ask questions and speak openly. I hope my story inspires people from all communities in the Midlands to take part and have fun while supporting this amazing cause.”
Race for Life
Race for Life events across the West Midlands are open to people of all ages and abilities. Women, men and children can choose from 3k, 5k and 10k events.
There is also a chance to take part in Pretty Muddy - a mud-splattered obstacle course - and there’s a Pretty Muddy Kids option.
This is the 30th year of Race for Life and participants will receive a special medal to mark the milestone.
Every year around 33,800 people are diagnosed with cancer in the West Midlands and one in two people in the UK born after 1960 will get cancer in their lifetime.
Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with headline sponsor Standard Life, raises funds for world-class research to help beat 200 types of cancer - including bowel cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, testicular cancer, brain cancer, children’s cancers and leukaemia.
To enter, visit raceforlife.org.