HOW CARMEN FOUGHT CANCER ‘LIKE A WARRIOR’ – INSPIRED BY HER YOUNG DAUGHTERS.
WHEN Carmen Loscialpo was struggling to cope through gruelling cancer treatment, the strength to carry on came from an unexpected source – her two young daughters aged just eight and five.
Thirty-six-year-old Carmen said: “The fear of the unknown and how to cope alone was bringing me down until I saw how well my girls were coping with everything, after the initial shock.
“Kloe’s strength, in particular, was a turning point for me and from then I fought like a warrior. I believe she saved my life”.
Two years on, Carmen, a bar tender in an exclusive casino in London’s Mayfair, has never felt more confident.
“Cancer changed my life for the better”, she said.
The family from Bromley, is supporting Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life and hope their story will encourage people to take part.
Money raised help scientists find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, saving lives as the charity fights back from the impact of the pandemic.
In May 2019 Carmen was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer which had spread to her lymph nodes.
“There is no history of breast cancer in my family but I always checked myself after a shower and I found a tiny lump,” she said.
“I knew something was wrong straight away and that my life would change forever”.
Carmen immediately went to her doctor and within days she had a scan and a biopsy confirming the worst. Within three weeks she was having chemotherapy treatment.
A single mum to daughters, Kloe, now 10 and Keira, now 6 – having split from their father four years earlier – and having no family in the UK, Carmen already felt vulnerable.
But when her then partner walked out the day before her first chemotherapy treatment, saying he could not give her the emotional support she needed, it almost broke Carmen.
“I will never forget the moment he walked away. He said he had enough personal problems of his own and he couldn’t cope with more.
“Having spoken to other women I know that is quite a common reaction.
“We hadn’t been together long but when he left I felt very alone and I couldn’t face everything on my own.
“The first two months after I had been diagnosed I had given up hope. I spent too much time Googling my disease and that only made me think the worst”.
Carmen said the turning point came after Kloe decided to donate her long hair to make a wig for another child with cancer.
Kloe, a pupil at Haseltine Primary School, Sydenham, also started fundraising and became an advocate in her school, going up on stage and raising awareness about breast cancer.
“While some children struggle at school in the same circumstances, Kloe was determined to try even harder to do well as she didn’t want me to worry. Her teachers were amazed.
“Kloe especially became my inspiration. She looked after her little sister when I was too ill to. She has grown up so much into a young brave little woman. She never gave up on me”.
Carmen also received invaluable support from her best friend, Claire Steward, from Hawley, Kent.
“When I was first diagnosed my mum, who lives in Italy, was unable to help. Claire stepped in and she accompanied me to all my treatments – often sitting with me for eight hours at a time.
“Claire kept me positive with her banter and made the treatment a little easier. She is a wonderful person”.
After seventeen months of gruelling treatment, its side-effects – including upsetting hair loss – emergency dashes to hospital and many days in isolation, Carmen was told in October last year she had won her battle with cancer.
“I am still here. I have been given another chance to live my life in a better way. Braver, stronger and fearless”.
Carmen opted for a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery although only one breast was affected by cancer.
“That was the best decision I made because I knew I would worry about getting cancer again”.
A few weeks ago Carmen arranged a special birthday party for Kloe to make up for two she had missed because of lockdown and her mum’s illness.
“I told her before the party I wanted her to know she had saved my life.
“Now, I have never felt more confident. I wish I had known then what I know now and I hope my story can help others on a similar journey through hell”.
Carmen is a volunteer providing support for other women battling cancer alone.
“What is waiting at the end of that journey is worth all the tears and pain. I can’t believe I am saying this now but everything in my life has changed after cancer – and it’s for the better”.
Part of that is down to Carmen’s new partner, Daniel.
“He is amazing. We started off as friends. He was there for me and now we are in love”.
Carmen and her daughters are supporting this year’s Race for Life events which are open to people of all ages and abilities, and include 3K, 5K, 10K options.
There are also Pretty Muddy events, a mud-splattered obstacle course, including a version for children.
Every year around 34,100 people are diagnosed with cancer in London* and one in two people in the UK born after 1960 will get cancer in their lifetime.**
Lynn Daly Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson for London, said: “Race for Life offers the perfect opportunity for people to run, walk or jog and raise money for life-saving research.
“All 400 mass participation Race for Life events across the UK were cancelled last year to protect the country’s health during the COVID-19 pandemic. So this year, more than ever, we need people to enter the Race for Life – for the people we love, for the people we’ve lost and for the one in two of us who will get cancer.”
Anyone registering to take part in a Race for Life event by Sunday (19 Sept) can get 50 per cent off the entry fee. Just apply the discount code RFLAUG50 when entering any Race for Life, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids event.
Money raised at Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, which has been in partnership with Tesco for 20 years, funds world-class research to help beat 200 types of cancer – including bowel cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, testicular cancer, brain cancer, children’s cancers and leukaemia.
Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, Cancer Research UK’s work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has been at the heart of the progress that has seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.
The charity was able to spend more than £153 million in London last year on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.