'˜I stopped eating sugar and changed my life'
When Sue Bannister was told she had breast cancer, it was a huge shock.
Days later, she began chemotherapy to tackle a tumour.
Convinced that diet played a part in her condition, she also ended up making big changes to her lifestyle.
Now the 56-year-old from Hayling Island has written a book about her journey and how she decided to completely cut out sugar and exercise regularly.
In No Sugar: My Journey, Sue talks about her programme of recovery and how she got to where she is today – and she achieved it while struggling with dyslexia.
Today she leads a very different life. Having cut out all cakes, biscuits and sugary treats from her diet, she regularly exercises including taking pilates classes.
It was back in September 2012 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
‘I believed something was wrong,’ she says.
‘My body looked fine but I knew it wasn’t. My mind wasn’t right.
‘My breast hurt so I went to the doctor. The doctor felt it and said that I had an inverted nipple.’
At the time, Sue was working in London and living in Surrey. She went to the Royal Marsden Hospital for a mammogram and a biopsy.
That’s when she found out she had breast cancer.
‘I was in a really good place at that point,’ she says.
‘I was scared, but I was taking it all in and doing what I was told.’
She had been diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, with the tumour in her right breast measuring 56mm. Chemotherapy started almost immediately.
‘It was too big to take it out,’ she says.
‘They wanted to kill it off to prevent it from going anywhere else in the body.
‘But I reacted really badly to the chemotherapy. I was in hospital three times. I got an infection and my body couldn’t fight it.
‘I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t drink. It hurt to do anything. I had no energy and I was feeling very sorry for myself.’
But on the third occasion, Sue managed to complete the course of chemotherapy without getting ill.
‘It was working’, she adds.
‘It was killing it all off, but it was killing everything else off in my body too. I’m quite resilient to cope if I know it’s only temporary.’
After that, Sue had a lumpectomy. She spent eight weeks recovering and everything was going well.
But in October, 2014, doctors said the cancer had returned to her right breast.
‘That sent me into a panic,’ Sue recalls.
‘Just before I went for my treatment I made a promise to myself that I was going to look after myself to the best of my ability.
‘Prior to that I was a sugar freak. So I put myself on a very strict diet.’
Sue did some research and decided that she needed to control her sugar and fungus intake into her body, which she believes may have been feeding into the cancer at the time.
She thinks that her immune system was extremely low as a result of what she had been eating – particularly sugar.
After her first dose of chemotherapy, her body became even more sensitive and reacted much quicker to any amount of lactose or gluten.
Sue went on to have further treatment and had another course of chemotherapy.
Then in June last year, she had a mastectomy and began to change her lifestyle even more.
‘I did lots of exercise. I was walking every day. I was really looking after my body and the food I was putting in it,’ she says.
‘I had a very good nurse who taught me how to control the pain. She told me to move.
‘I had to set myself targets before the operation.
‘I had to learn how to sit in a car for a long time if I was going on a car journey. I had a six-month programme to get myself fit again to get to the south of France.’
As part of that programme, Sue enjoyed her first family day out to watch the America’s Cup racing in Southsea last year.
‘The energy was so lovely,’ she says.
‘It was so nice to be in that atmosphere. I love sailing – it’s in my blood.
‘We went for a walk and we went for dinner. That was my first big day out. That gave me a really good stepping stone to go over to France.
‘All this time I was looking after my body and giving myself the right food and drink.
‘I was anxious when I got down there, but I had such a strong community of friends. Everybody looked after me.’
And at the start of this year, Sue also went skiing.
Her life has now changed for the better. She checks every food packet for the ingredients and makes more meals from scratch – leading to an improvement in her home cooking.
She decided to write a book about her experiences after being encouraged to do so by others.
‘While I was going through the chemotherapy, other patients couldn’t believe how well I was doing with all my treatments.
‘They said that I should share it. I thought that if I could share my knowledge with other people of how I looked after myself then maybe they could benefit from it.
‘It’s from the heart. The book came about very easily.
‘I left school being dyslexic. I couldn’t read or write. This was about me getting the message across. It’s irrelevant to me if I have got a comma in the wrong place.
‘It’s about sharing the message of looking after my body. When you have got cancer your body is craving sugar. It’s about learning how to not feed it sugar.’
The changes in Sue’s diet are drastic now. Even though she can’t eat dairy, she was still eating a lot of sugar before.
‘I would eat a whole pack of biscuits or a packet of jelly babies or a packet of marshmallows. I would eat a lot of cake.
‘Now, if I go out for dinner I know that there’s not a meal that they can give me which I am happy with. So often, I won’t eat anything.
‘The reason why I believe I got cancer is because my body didn’t have a chance.
‘I am still on my journey - there’s a long way to go. It’s just sharing the message.
‘I believe that if you look after your body in the first place then you won’t have to go to hospital. A lot of cancers are self manufactured.
‘I feel really good. It was very therapeutic writing the book. It’s been rewarding sharing it with other people.
‘I was very happy and surprised by the feedback that I have got from writing the book from people who have read a lot and been in book clubs for 20 years.
‘People who have known me since I was 12 read it and said they found out things they didn’t know about me.
‘We spend our lives going round with other people thinking about what they think about us.
‘When I’m myself I am much more fun and I have a lot of laughs. I have a wicked sense of humour. I like to have a lot of fun.
‘I showed my vulnerable side by writing the book. It’s about me being honest with myself.’