talkhealth member stories: Lita Williams

Lita Williams is a talkhealth member who has lived through cancer and is living with secondary stages of the disease. In this article she shares her experience of living through chemo and radiotherapy as well as rebuilding her mental health.

She also covers how body image and relationships, consider how the disease affected every facet of her life and how she came out the other side.

Read on below…

I am here to share my story as a breast cancer survivor and help women on their cancer journey. Here’s how I beat cancer, how I coped and how I am now living with secondary cancer.

Diagnosis and surgery

In 2008, when I was 49, I started to experience pain in my left breast. I visited my GP for a checkup and she examined me, but could not be sure if there was anything suspicious. My doctor referred me to the Royal Marsden hospital in Sutton where I had a mammogram, followed by a biopsy, and asked me to come back in a week for my results.

I went back to the hospital expecting good news  – but, they told me that I had breast cancer. It felt like my whole world fell apart, I felt absolutely devastated, shocked, angry and scared.

In medical terms, I had metastatic breast cancer ER positive, PR positive and HER2 positive Grade III invasive ductal carcinoma. Why did this have to happen to me? I didn’t want to talk about it or consider the next steps.

I had a mastectomy of the left breast just before my 50th birthday. During the operation, they found that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and had to extract 21 out of 24 of them.

It felt like I had been butchered. I was in considerable pain and considered myself only half a woman when it was over. My mental health deteriorated and I constantly thought that my partner would leave me, that I was a freak, and that I would be all alone to face the next part of my journey.


I was sent home to rest and recuperate, with a drain and a  very large supply of painkillers. A month after the operation, I underwent extensive chemotherapy, administered intravenously every three weeks.

The drug they used was called FEC. This made me feel extremely ill and I was not able to work for six months. Throughout the treatment, I felt very lethargic, sick, constipated, couldn't really taste food and had a very sore mouth. I also lost a lot of weight, lost all my hair, needed a wig and headscarves. In all honesty, I felt like sh*t.

It was the worst experience of my entire life, as the chemo targeted the good cells as well as the bad.

This was followed by a month of radiotherapy, which was not so bad.

The Aftermath

My partner, his family and a few friends were incredibly supportive, throughout my ordeal. Believe it or not, I was very positive throughout my treatment and celebrated every milestone. My partner and I vowed to beat cancer together. The doctors and nurses at the Royal Marsden hospital were exceptionally good, and I received counselling.

At least I was alive - a lot of women don't make it.

Unfortunately, after an MRI scan, they found that a tiny bit of cancer had spread to my spine and I was forced to live with secondary cancer and continue to have treatment for that even now.

I asked myself: ‘Where do I go from here?’. After cancer treatment, I was experiencing acute lack of confidence, very low self-esteem and felt very uncomfortable when looking at my body.

When I went on holiday and wore my bikini, I had to wear a prosthesis to replace my left breast. I felt very self-conscious and thought people were looking at me and laughing.

I could never use communal changing rooms, for fear of being ridiculed, and always had to hide in the toilets to get changed. Low cut tops or dresses were a no-no too.

With the help of coaching, I found self-love, resilience, learned to appreciate the fact that I was still around and began to feel grateful for what I had.

I learned to reprogramme my mindset to think differently - the realisation that negative thoughts lead to an unfulfilling life is a game changer. I discovered that my partner and other people loved me just the way I was. I started to love and respect my body and this made me realise that I was the same, amazing, human being I always had been.

Reconstructive surgery

After eight years of ‘no’, in March 2016 I was finally given the go ahead for my reconstructive surgery.  I under went DIEP flap surgery. It was quite a long, complicated, operation and my new breast was made out of my tummy fat. I had 2 months off work and was in a lot of pain, while waiting for both areas to heal.

There was no stopping me afterwards though, I felt like a new woman and was complete at last. My confidence soared, my self-esteem rocketed and I felt truly empowered - the surgery changed my life.

I married my long-term partner, after 20 years together, in 2021, and am the happiest I have ever been in years. Despite having secondary cancer, life is treating me very well now. I have a busy social life, enjoy my holidays, have attended a couple of photography workshops and joined a couple of local groups – Epsom Speakers Club and the WI. I am enjoying my retirement.

Why I trained to help others

After all of this, I decided I wanted to help professional women change and improve their lives. I always remained positive throughout my ordeal, and would like to channel this positivity to others in the same situation.

I am a fully ACPPH accredited transformational coach, a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner and a Hypnotherapist. I am ready to make life happier, easier and better for all concerned according to individual needs and goals.

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 14 June 2024
Next review: 14 June 2027