How friendship struck up in Dundee Asda helped Pam through breast cancer

Pam Woodfield and Sam Will

A Dundee woman who found support at her local supermarket after being diagnosed with breast cancer, plans to use her experience to help others. With a little help from her new friend Sam.

Former nurse Pam Woodfield was diagnosed with breast cancer last October after noticing a change in her left breast.

As a regular shopper at Asda Kirkton, Pam was in store nearly every day – finding it easier to just carry a few things at a time as she was going through treatment.

“The scale of breast cancer is enormous, every family knows someone who’s been affected by it,” Pam says. “The staff are so friendly at Asda Kirkton, always asking how I am.”

And a chance conversation with Asda’s Community Champion Sam Will has led to friendship, support – and a great new project for both women.

Pam Woodfield.
Pam Woodfield.

Sam, also from Dundee, explains: “We knew each other in the passing, we’d wave and say hi. Then I was doing taste-testing in store and Pam came over.

“She told me about her diagnosis. I run the Tickled Pink events and other community events in store.

“People come up to me when I’m in the store and tell me their stories. Having someone to talk to who is not directly involved can help people. It’s a great job, the best move I’ve ever made.”

Sam Will works as Asda Kirkton's community champion.
Sam Will works as Asda Kirkton’s community champion.

Pam says: “I wasn’t unwell but I had noticed some changes.

“Then I started on HRT and within that month and a half I noticed discharge from my nipple. My GP said to leave it a couple of weeks as it may be hormonal or may settle.

Symptoms included itching

“Then over those two weeks everything changed. My breast changed, I experienced numbness and itching.

“Itchiness is something I didn’t realise was a symptom and looking back to summer I was always itchy. But I thought it was just the heat.

“I used to be a staff nurse so when the diagnosis came I felt as if I knew that was what it was. Looking at it I knew there was something seriously wrong.”

Some of the breast changes that can indicate breast cancer.
Some of the breast changes that can indicate breast cancer.

Pam, 45, was quick to go to her GP about the changes. She underwent a mastectomy at Perth Royal Infirmary in January and is now making an excellent recovery.

“The care was absolutely brilliant. Though going back and forward each day to Edinburgh for radiotherapy was difficult,” says Pam.

“I’m lucky I only had five days. Many people don’t realise radiotherapy takes seconds. In my case 58.

“My mum and dad live nearby and my sister in Inverness was never off the phone, she was great. And coming in to Asda to talk to Sam was a brilliant support.”

Knitted knockers

Since her surgery, Pam and Sam have become good friends.

Sam smiles: “I’ve learned lots from becoming friends with Pam. I’ve even managed to crochet a boob!”

Pam says: “Maggie’s Centre in Dundee mentioned Knitted Knockers, an online page where you can get free prosthetics, to me.

“They’re brilliant. I said to Sam ‘get on the case’ and then she crocheted me one!”

Sam and Pam now plan to take the story of how they met – and the breast cancer awareness message – out to the community.

Sam says: “I was drawn to Pam because of her positivity.

“Honesty was so important between us. I didn’t want Pam to just say she was fine and that was it, I wanted to help. Also having a laugh, and sharing a sense of humour, to try to smile through it, helps.

“Pam explained about her background in nursing and said she’d love to help by coming in to Dundee schools and to Tickled Pink events with me to tell people first-hand about her experience.”

Pam continues: “If telling my story can help even one person I’ll be happy.

“Part of it for me has being able to keep a sense of humour. Of course I’ve had a few moments where I’ve felt alone but, after meeting Sam in store, I have her on Facebook. So it’s good and we can talk that way too.

“I’ll need to have yearly mammograms until I’m 50. And I need genetic testing as my aunt on my dad’s side had breast cancer but we’re not sure about my mum’s side.

“I won’t be able to take HRT now, which is upsetting as I felt it was working for me. But I try to manage with natural remedies instead.

“I have Reiki and reflexology. And Sam and I are going for a massage together this week to celebrate me getting the all-clear, so that will be great!”

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Lifestyle – The Courier Dundee