Kingston paddlers Kirstin Field and Jocelyn King both turned 50 this year and are grateful for the breast screenings they had and their subsequent care.
Field, from Richmond, and King, from Teddington, both received a letter in the summer inviting them for a screening.
King then booked a mammogram at her local clinic Teddington Memorial Hospital.
After her breast screening, within a week they contacted her and said they had found something, a deep 2cm lump.
“I quickly went in and had the next stage of investigation at West Mid Hospital,” said King.
“It turned out what they found was a change in tissue but it wasn’t cancerous. It was all very quick.
“They were absolutely fantastic. At every point I knew what was happening and why. The way they talk is so reassuring.”
When Field received her letter she wasn’t sure if she would go. She opened it a couple of weeks after King got hers. “I think that’s probably what instigated me to go because I knew they picked something up on hers. That motivated me.”
After Field had her breast screening at Teddington Memorial Hospital, she was sent another letter inviting her back for a more in depth investigation at St Georges Hospital.
‘I’d just gone to worst case scenario in my head’
“It sort of freaked me out but in the letter it was like: we found something that’s slightly unusual but as this is your first check we’ve nothing to compare it to. Come in and have a small test.”
The whole process took about four weeks and then Field was given the all clear.
“It was a massive relief actually. I had calcifications that they said are part of the normal ageing process. I guess I’d just gone to worst case scenario in my head,” said Field.
NHS breast screening (mammogram) checks use X-rays to look for cancers that are too small to see or feel. Anyone registered with a GP as female is invited for NHS breast screening every three years between the ages of 50 and 71.
Field said the whole experience had made her and King want to enter as many races as they can and do more travel. “We’re both a bit more gung-ho.”
The two met four or five years ago doing competitive outrigger canoeing at The Royal Outrigger Canoe Club in Teddington.
They both work full-time in professional jobs and yet manage to train three or four times a week on the River Thames, including every Tuesday evening with their female crew.
Part of UK Paddlesports, they are based at the Albany Watersports Centre in Kingston.
Field said: “It’s soul food for me really. It’s challenging but rewarding. Especially working on a team boat, like in a six boat, you’ve got to work as one to achieve a goal.
“And it’s great exercise. But I don’t feel like it’s exercise.”
Joyce conveyed a similar sentiment and emphasised the camaraderie she has with her female crew.
“I love being in the fresh air and on the water. It’s very special being with women as well.
“I don’t think men mean it sometimes when they offer to help bring in the boat but we’re like, we’ve got this. We do it all. You have to know everything.”
When asked what she would say to other women who receive a letter inviting them for a breast screening, King said: “Ring up the nurses if worried. Talk about it. It really was reassuring.
“One of our paddlers has gone through breast cancer, about 2014. I did contact her as well. She is one of the best paddlers in the country now. That’s inspiring. We all support each other.”
Field and King won a silver medal in the V6 500m at the IVF Va’a World Sprint Championships at Dorney Lake, Windsor last year, beating the ‘over 40s Women’ crews in the final from New Zealand, Brazil, Hawaii, Canada and Australia.