Wantage Committee Chair’s Brave Story

1861 (Wantage) Squadron Civilian Committee member, Louise Preece is a healthy 40-year-old mother of one but on October 1, she undertook a voluntary operation to have both her breasts removed – a decision she hopes will prevent her developing the same cancer which is slowly killing her mum.

Mrs Preece, from Grove, near Wantage, underwent a 14-hour double mastectomy at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, which surgeons hope will reduce her chances of developing cancer from 80% to just 8%. Doctors have told her they think she could share the same cancer gene with her mother. Although there is no test to prove whether she has it, a faulty gene can increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

Currently the chair of the Wantage Air Cadets Civilian Committee says she has taken the tough decision so her son, Steven Clark, 16, does not have to see her battle cancer.

She said: “My wonderful mum, Linda Clark, has spent the last nine years battling ovarian cancer, then a brain tumour and now breast cancer, which has spread to her bones, spine and now her liver. My family and I have had to watch helplessly as she has battled these cancers, only to be told there is now nothing more the doctors can do for her. The geneticists fear my mum and I may carry a cancer gene, but one they cannot test us for but I don’t want my son to go through what we have, so I am taking control. I have already undergone surgery to have my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. And I hope this will hopefully enable me to fight cancer head-on, before it has the chance to rear its ugly head.”

Mrs Preece, said the decision to have her healthy breasts removed was gruelling, but nevertheless an easy one to make. She said: “My husband Peter Preece, 44, was very worried and told me to think carefully, because it is such a big op, but he and my son Steven are right behind me. The threat of cancer has become like a black cloud lurking over my head. Even so, I still feel a bit of a fraud because I am going into hospital, I’m not sick and I’m going to be taking up a lot of doctors’ time. However, without the op there is a very large chance I will develop cancer and that would require a lot more of their time and treatment.”

Mrs Preece said her mother Linda Clark is also right behind her decision. “My mum has undergone radiotherapy, brain surgery, as well as countless days in hospital, and even though she has proved the doctors wrong by living past the two years they gave her two and half years ago, the cancer has returned again and again, and now there is no point in even operating. Despite all this, she has been there for me throughout – when the genetics team told me they thought my mum and I could share the same cancer gene, and when the doctors advised me to take precautionary measures.”

Mrs Clark, who is 65, lives in Wantage and helps to run the town’s RAFA with her husband Alan, 69. She also recently held her seventh annual Macmillan Big Coffee Morning at Wantage Civic Hall, despite decreasing mobility. “I have been fighting cancer since 2004 and I am very proud of what Louise is doing. I was there when she made the decision and I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Mrs Preece’s operation involved both her beasts being removed, followed immediately afterwards by surgery to reconstruct new breasts using tissue from her stomach. The 40-year-old said: “There will be a large scar across my stomach, but I feel that’s a small price to pay for something that will hopefully save my life.” She has been “keeping busy” in the run-up to the operation and including organising a World’s Biggest Coffee Morning for Macmillan Cancer Care at Carswell Golf Course Club House on Friday, September 27.