Making special memories from Mandie’s bucket list

Mandie Stevenson and pug Frank. Picture: Michael Gillen
Mandie Stevenson and pug Frank. Picture: Michael Gillen

Walking through Marks and Spencer in Falkirk in September 2015, Mandie Stevenson could have been forgiven for feeling sorry for herself.

She was 26 and she had breast cancer.

Her second bout of chemotherapy had recently taken place and as a side effect of the treatment her long, dark hair was starting to fall out.

Then she spotted some promotional images for the retailer’s link up campaign with charity Breast Cancer Now. Photographs of women in lingerie who all had the disease.

“One of the women in the poster was totally bald and I realised that would soon be me,” said Mandie.

“The campaign totally touched me and I wanted to find out more. A friend and I emailed Marks and Spencer and told them what was happening to me. Then last year, they got in touch and asked if I would like to be involved.

“It was a wonderful experience and really made you feel like you were doing something to make other people aware of what to look out for with breast cancer.”

Losing her hair was one of the tough things about her chemotherapy and at first, Mandie felt she was also losing part of her identity.

But she quickly overcome those thoughts and even went to work without a wig.

However, one thing she was happy to lose was the tumour in her breast.

“When a mastectomy was first spoken about the doctors wanted to concentrate on dealing with my liver. But I wanted to get rid of it and it was difficult to think that this thing was still inside me.

“But in July last year they decided to go ahead with the operation. A reconstruction wasn’t possible in my case so I use a prosthetic.”

Mandie is very matter of fact about all she has faced.

“I’ve had to learn to deal with a lot of change. Losing my hair then my breast hasn’t affected my confidence and people have to take me as I am.

“But a lot of that is down to my family. It’s not been easy for them. You always want to protect your children and they are really strong for me.

“This has definitely brought us together even more. We’re all determined to spend as much time together and want to do special things and make memories.”

Part of making those memories to treasure was compiling her bucket list, something she initially did with friends – and she is a firm believer that everyone should draw up a list of things they want to do.

A holiday to Australia was on the list, something she did in November with her sister Nicola and two friends, while she ran the Edinburgh half marathon last May raising funds for Strathcarron Hospice.

“They do a lot of really good work and I’m happy to help them – it also gave me something to focus on.

“I also went on a family holiday to Italy shortly before my mastectomy which was great.

“Getting Frank my pug was also important as he gives me something to focus on as I have to look after him, not just myself.

“I also climbed Dumyat – not everything on my list costs a lot of money!”

Mandie is still pulling together her plans for 2017 but her dreams include a mix of things she can do locally and some where she needs to travel.

Her updated bucket list includes learning to play the ukulele – which she already purchased on a hen weekend in Dublin, meeting David Beckham and Gerard Butler, going to St Andrews with friend Debs, enjoying prosecco at Harvey Nichols, a steak dinner at the Champney restaurant, a VIP experience at the Wimbledon finals, and meeting a Rangers FC hero with her dad John.

“These are all my dreams and I want to enjoy as many as I can.”

She admits that events such as Christmas can be difficult, not knowing how many more she will have.

“Birthdays aren’t as bad but Christmas and New Year I tend to treat as just another day, but it is important to spend time with my family.

Mandie appreciates that huge advances have been made in the treatment of cancer and the hope is that one day no-one, no matter their age, will have to face what she is currently going through.

But she is also very much aware that time has yet to come.

“I live in the real world and don’t think there is going to be a cure for me – but then again never say never. I’m still waiting on my miracle ...”