South Shields mum and daughter beat breast cancer

cancer battle ...  Julie Howard-Stevonavik with mother Joan Howard.
cancer battle ... Julie Howard-Stevonavik with mother Joan Howard.

A MOTHER and daughter who both battled breast cancer have hailed the medics who saved their lives.

Julie Howard–Stevanovic was left devastated when she was diagnosed with cancer and needed a mastectomy just weeks before getting married in summer 2009.

It was while slimming down for her wedding dress that the 40-year-old noticed a lump in her breast.

The diagnosis was an especially cruel blow as her mum, Joan Howard, 67, from West Park, South Shields, was diagnosed with the same disease in 2006.

However the pair are now in remission and want to show their appreciation to medics at Gateshead’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead and raise cash for the Dr Browell Research Unit, in honour of DrDavid Browell who carried out both of their treatments.

Julie, from Marsden, South Shields, said: “It’s been horrific that not one, but two of us have had to go through this. So we want to be able to give something back to those who helped us.

“The unit carries out research into the disease so we naturally want to be able to support it.”

In August 2010, doctors discovered Julie was a carrier of the BRAC1 gene, which puts her at greater chance of developing cancer.

As a result she had a second mastectomy and a few weeks later her ovaries removed as a preventative measure.

Both her older sisters Lisa Brindle, 42, from South Shields, and Donna Howard, 41, from Jarrow, were tested to see if they too were carriers.

Julie, who is married to Brent, said: “Although mam and I both had breast cancer, it was a different type, neither she or my sisters had the BRAC1 gene.

“It turned out this was passed along from my father’s side of the family.

“But now that I’ve had my other breast and ovaries removed I have the same chance as anyone else of being diagnosed with cancer again.”

In the future, Julie’s three daughters Caitlin, 15, Bethany, 13, and Macey, seven, will have to make the decision if they also wish to be tested for the gene.

Julie said: “It will be up to them if they wish to be tested, it might not have necessarily been passed on.

“But it creates so many other problems, along with the obvious, it will affect their chances of getting insurance and having a mortgage if they are carriers.”

Joan, who works at the Cleadon Club in Fulwell Avenue, South Shields, has already raised in the region of £3,000 for the research unit.

But the family hope to add to the figure with their charity night which will be held at the Cleadon Club on November 8, from 7pm.

Ice Cold Vegas and Howie B will be performing and there will be raffle prizes up for grabs. Tickets cost £5.

Julie’s sister Lisa, from Reading Road, added: “We’ve been through hell and back, but came out the other side, and for us this is now a success story, so we’re hoping lots of people will support us.”

Anyone who can donate raffle prizes is asked to email

Twitter: @ShieldsGazVez