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Real Life: My future's bright after breast cancer

Diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer at 35, Cambridge mum-of-two Ida Zamzad faced a gruelling battle. But today, clear of cancer, she feels ‘stronger than ever’

Ida Zamzad's empowering photoshoot with Bury photograhper Klara Balogh-Bona (53608938)
Ida Zamzad's empowering photoshoot with Bury photograhper Klara Balogh-Bona (53608938)

It had been a magical day packed with childlike wonder exploring Legoland Windsor with her husband and two beautiful boys. But on the journey home, Ida Zamzad read an article that would change her life. “It was about a lady who found a small lump in her left breast. I felt a little worried as I’d had a lump like this for a few weeks,” explains the Swedish-born mum, who works in HR and recruitment.

Ida booked a GP appointment and within weeks was at Addenbrooke’s Hospital for further investigation.

“I didn’t think the lump was too serious, so I biked there as my plan was to go into Cambridge after work and meet my husband and kids for lunch,” she recalls.

However, after an ultrasound, Ida was sent for a mammogram, and then a biopsy, and as the day went on, her sense of dread grew.

“After the biopsy, the doctor sat me down and said: ‘I have bad news, it’s cancer’. I felt like I was falling into a black hole and the life I had was forever gone,” she explains. “I tried to plan how my husband and kids would survive without me; it was really awful.”

In a state of shock, Ida got a cab into Cambridge to meet her family. “The boys had ice creams and I felt like I was about to ruin their lives with my news but wanted them to enjoy that moment eating their ice creams.”

Back home, she broke the devastating news to her husband.

“I told him it was cancer and he started screaming. The thing is when you get diagnosed, you don’t know if it is terminal, if it’s curable, if it has spread, you only know it’s cancer.”

Ida has an agonising week wait to see if the cancer had spread – and had to face the news alone due to pandemic restrictions.

Ida and her boys (53608936)
Ida and her boys (53608936)

“As soon as I saw my doctor I said: ‘just tell me, is it stage 4?’ and he said ‘no’. I felt like I had won the lottery, and my only thought was ‘I’m going to survive!’”

Ida’s cancer was stage 2 and oestrogen-driven; she had a bunch of small tumours in her left breast. An aggressive HER2-positive strain, it would initially need six months of chemotherapy. Ida hit the gym in preparation for her treatment. “I felt like I was about to embark on a big race, so I had to feel strong and prepared,” she explains.

The chemotherapy made Ida incredibly sick: “Some days I was in so much pain I couldn’t get out of bed”.

Then in March 2021, she underwent a double mastectomy. “I pushed for the double because I felt like my breasts had a darkness over them; I didn’t want anything to do with them, which was hard as I’d loved breastfeeding my kids,” she explains. “Afterwards I could no longer feel my children hugging me, but I try to focus on the good - that it took the cancer away.”

Post-surgery scans showed Ida’s body was clear of cancer. “It was such a big relief. I cried because it felt like this journey was coming to an end – and we drank champagne!” she smiles.

Due to the aggressive nature of the cancer, Ida underwent a course of radiotherapy last summer, and will remain on targeted medication for many years.

However, she remains incredibly positive. “I had a wonderful psychiatrist at Addenbrooke’s who mentally prepared me for everything I faced, which helped me stay strong. I always try to look on the bright side rather than dwell on what I have lost.”

To help her recovery, Ida runs regularly, which helps alleviate joint pain brought on by chemotherapy. She also took part in a photoshoot with Bury St Edmunds photographer Klara Balogh-Bona to showcase her strength. “It was a great way to feel like I had my sexuality back and show my power and strength after cancer,” she says.

Ida hopes that by sharing her journey, she can spread hope and positivity to others.

“Having cancer has been a real rollercoaster, but now on the other side I feel so much stronger than ever before, both mentally and physically,” she enthuses. “I can run 15k which I never could before cancer. Life now feels so much more precious, beautiful and colourful - and I’m thankful for that.”

Ida is running a half marathon in London in April. To sponsor her visit fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/team/warriorboobs

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