I now have had breast cancer twice in my life. The first was in 1994 when I was in my thirties and the second time in May this year.
But there is a twist this time - I work as the Director of Breakthrough Breast Cancer in Scotland. This means that my personal and professional worlds have collided! One of my dilemmas was how to handle this; to acknowledge the impact honestly in my day to day work but also protect my own vulnerabilities - not easy.
My answer was to write a blog (audreybirt.blogspot.com). It allows me to park many of the thoughts, worries and frustrations somewhere and stop them filling my head. It's also a way to help people understand how it feels - a little window into the experience. And reaches out to those who are going through it too. I know for some it has been very helpful. For my work, it has helped colleagues at Breakthrough get a greater sense of how breast cancer affects someone.
I have known from the start, that fortunately for me, my cancer was found at an early stage. And, having already survived early breast cancer for 16 years, I have been pretty confident that I can do it again although I do have the occasional 2am wobble! But while my cancer might be at an early stage, it can still hold it terrors for those who love me. And this journey has been hard for all of them.
My own cancer has reinforced for me, on so many levels, the importance of our work at Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Our focus is on finding the causes of breast cancer, detecting it early, diagnosing it accurately and ensuring the best care and treatment for all, wherever you live. Early detection and receiving best treatment and care are the reasons I am still here -and I want that for everyone. This gives me a real passion for Breakthrough's work and vision - a future free from the fear of breast cancer.
For all of us at Breakthrough it's been quite a month. And for all the women diagnosed - which is more than 45,000 each year in the UK - the pink explosion during October is so important.
One of our key aims is to help women to be more breast aware. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, affecting 1 in every 8 women over the course of their lifetime, but there are positive steps that can be done to reduce risk and none of them require a complete lifestyle overhaul.
Most cases of breast cancer are found by women noticing unusual changes themselves. The earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chance of beating it. Being breast aware simply means knowing what your breasts look and feel like normally, being on the lookout for any unusual changes and getting them checked out by your doctor.
It's as simple as TLC...
TOUCH your breasts. Feel for anything unusual.
LOOK for changes. Be aware of their shape and texture.
CHECK anything unusual with your doctor.
And to help we have gone digital! Last year we developed the award-winning iPhone app, the iBreastCheck, which includes the Touch Look Check video, risk report and a handy reminder service. You can download it for free from itunes or at http://ibreastcheck.com/ - what are you waiting for?
But Breast Cancer Awareness Month is not just about raising awareness of the disease. The money raised by our amazing supporters will help us transform and save lives, supporting all our work in research and campaigning for change.
This year, with the support of TV Presenter, Angellica Bell, we have been encouraging people to Go Pink to help fight breast cancer and we have seen some amazing results.
From the 3,800 people that spent the day at London's Alexandra Palace taking part in a mass Zumba-thon, to Thistle St in Edinburgh turning pink to raise funds for us - every penny raised really does make a huge difference to our work and we can't thank our supporters enough.
For some ideas to Go Pink visit the Go Pink website and take the quick and easy Ideas Generator quiz for fundraising tips. Visit: http://www.breakthrough.org.uk/gopink/-we honestly cant do it without you and you can do it at anytime of year.
There are also a huge range of products from retailers including M&S, Avon, ghd, adidas, Sainsbury's, Charbrew Tea and many more who are raising funds for us during October . To get some inspiration and see the full range of products available this year you can visit breakthroughbreastcancer.org/shop
I can't finish without sharing some of my reasons to be cheerful (a regular feature of my blog which I know people like!) The activities this year from the Changing Breast Cancer conference in Edinburgh to the Westminster Fly-in lobbying event in London and the host of pink parties in between have inspired and enthused not only me, but all of us at Breakthrough Breast Cancer. It's that support that gives me and people like me hope for the future.
Of course our work is not over when October ends. We want to end the uncertainties that make breast cancer so frightening, so that every woman knows for certain that she will be here, with the people she loves, for years to come. See our website to get involved www.breakthroughbreastcancer.org