AN Inverness mother has spoken out about her experience with cervical cancer in a bid to raise awareness for Macmillan and encourage others to fundraise.
Karen Saunders (45) of Cradlehall described it as the biggest shock of her life when she was told she had cancer and would need intensive treatment straight away.
"It was the biggest shock ever because I thought I was doing everything right," she said.
"I used to do the Highland Cross and I had ran a marathon and I tried to eat the right things – I just didn’t expect it at all."
She was diagnosed on November 18, 2016 with a rare form of cervical cancer that would not have been detected with a smear test.
Luckily she presented symptoms and rather than brushing them off as signs of an early menopause she contacted her GP.
"I was very lucky to get symptoms because it often doesn’t present," she said.
"Many women my age may just have thought that they were going through an early menopause but you should always get your symptoms checked out."
Mrs Saunders added: "I wasn’t in pain but I was experiencing tiredness and some irregular bleeding – I knew it wasn’t right.
"Using a camera they could see a tumour more than four centimetres big and there was only a one per cent chance that it wasn’t cancerous."
It turned out to be Adenocarcinoma which affects around 10 out of a 100 women with cervical cancer.
She had her first chemotherapy treatment on December 21.
At the time she had run the gruelling Highland Cross for three years in a row and she had previously competed in the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon.
By the end of her treatment she had undergone six rounds of chemotherapy, 25 radiotherapy sessions and she had also travelled to Aberdeen to receive internal radiotherapy.
"I really do believe that fitness gets you through and along with the support of family and friends it really helps," Mrs Saunders said.
"Telling my daughters was terrible, my husband actually told them but then they came to me.
"It was a very hard time for us all, particularly in the run up to Christmas and New Year but every chemo I went to my sister and my husband came too."
She has now had the all clear and has been inspired to raise awareness and money for charity.
"It is amazing what a difference a year makes," she said. "I have got the all clear now but I couldn’t have done it without Macmillan and my lovely friends and family."
"It was absolutely amazing – you can’t put it into words. All that you have gone through has been a success.
"We opened a bottle of champagne that night and went for dinner to celebrate."
She wants to help other patients to be positive and to remind people that it could happen to anyone.
She has now raised £5000 to benefit the Macmillan Suite in Raigmore Hospital.
"To know that the money will go locally and will help other people going through treatment means a lot to me," Mrs Saunders said.
"The Macmillan Suite is limited in terms of space and equipment so this will help other patients.
"I wanted to raise the money to say a huge thank you to all the doctors, nurses and staff at the Macmillan Suite for all their amazing care and support."
She has also championed the work of the nurses who made her experience in the hospital as pleasant as possible.
"All the nurses in there are absolutely amazing – they are all so special in my eyes," she said.
"You are going through treatment but they make it so upbeat and happy – you are so thankful that you want to give something back."
She organised a charity event in the Raigmore Motel and sold more than 150 tickets at £20 each. She also made £1,500 in the raffle with more than 40 prizes donated by local businesses and friends.
She added: "It was brilliant and everyone was so generous with their donations."
To raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support visit www.macmillan.org.uk