AN inspirational Greenock mum has bravely opened up about her breast cancer in a bid to raise awareness and money to help other sufferers.

Joyce Demelas saw her world change she felt a mild pain following a swimming session.

The 54-year-old, a devoted wife to her husband Gianni, who runs the chip shop at the West Station, and mum to Gioia, Gianluca and Sofia and a grandmother of three, immediately went to see her GP, who referred her to the hospital for a mammogram and biopsy.

Joyce, of Mews Lane, was given the devastating news that she had cancer on the same day as her daughter Gioia's birthday.

Since then she has undergone gruelling chemotherapy sessions, overcome life threatening infections, had a mastectomy and 21 lymph nodes removed from under her arm.

Today Joyce is feeling much better but is undergoing more chemo and will start radiotherapy in the near future to ensure all the cancer has been removed.

Her ordeal began back in March when she embarked on a new fitness regime.

She said: "I signed up to the Waterfront and started swimming and also joined the ladies gym there.

"In April, I was coming out the pool one day and in the shower I felt a mild pain in my left breast.

"I put my hand over and there was this lump, which was very prominent.

"I got an urgent appointment that day with the GP."

Joyce waited for two weeks for an appointment at Inverclyde Royal Hospital.

She said: "That was quite a stressful time as you're thinking 'is it cancer'?"

Joyce underwent a mammogram and a biopsy at the hospital on the same day.

She said: "At that point I had the feeling that something was going on.

"Within an hour I was sent back round to see the consultant who had confirmed I had breast cancer.

"I felt faint and from then on I didn't hear a single thing that the surgeon said.

"The clinical breast cancer nurse Alison tried to reassure me but my mind was somewhere else.

"I remember walking out holding my husband's arm as we crossed the car park and thinking 'did that just happen?"

Joyce said it was 'horrendous' having to break the news her elderly parents and children, especially as it was her eldest daughter's birthday.

She added: "It was a rollercoaster of emotions and fear.

"Everybody takes diagnosis differently, some people accept it and move on.

"For me it was doom and gloom, I couldn't see a positive at the beginning."

Fortunately further scans showed that Joyce's cancer had not spread anywhere else.

She then underwent chemotherapy treatment - but it did not go according to plan.

Joyce said: "Although they tell you what symptoms you might expect from chemotherapy, it's still frightening.

"I remember going for the chemo on the Wednesday and by the Saturday I started to feel really unwell.

"I wasn't sure if it was normal with the chemo.

"I remember the kids were round and I couldn't explain how bad I was feeling so I called my GP to check and he came out and I was admitted to J North at the IRH with an infection."

After recovering from this, Joyce underwent a second round of chemotherapy but four days later she began to feel unwell again.

She said: "I ended up with neutropenic sepsis, so I was very sick.

"Neutropenia is when your white blood cells are depleted and you can't fight off any infection.

"I spent a week in the IRH."

Joyce also fretted about hair loss.

She said: "When I got my diagnosis my first worry was my hair - nothing else seemed to matter.

"I made a mad dash for a wig but the hair loss became irrelevant because I was so ill, so it wasn't important any more."

After two rounds of chemotherapy, Joyce got the results back from an MRI which showed that the treatment had unfortunately made no impact on the tumour.

As a result, Joyce underwent a mastectomy at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley in August and 21 lymph nodes were removed from under her arm, with 16 affected by the cancer.

Joyce said: "Originally my surgeon told me I would be in hospital for about three or four days after the operation but I was in for two weeks.

"I took a serious chest infection and I also had an infection in the wound where my breast had been removed."

Joyce is now nine weeks post-surgery, feeling a lot better and is putting her energy into encouraging people to check their breasts regularly - both women and men.

She said: "I was diagnosed with breast cancer just 14 months after a mammogram came back clear, so people shouldn't just think they don't need to check their breasts for another three years until their next mammogram.

"It's so important to check your breasts, do it once a month.

"Just put a reminder on your phone and make it part of your routine.

"You should look out for changes in the size of your breast, a lump, a change in skin texture where it resembles orange peel, any redness, rash or discharge from a nipple and pain in the breast, arm or neck or any swelling around the armpit or collarbone."

Joyce has set up a Just Giving page in aid of Breast Cancer Care and organised can collections.

She received a £230 cash donation which helped her to collect about £2,000 for the charity.

She said: "That didn't involve work from me, that was the kindness of the people of Inverclyde and my friends and family and people I don't know sharing my posts on Facebook."

Joyce says the charity has been a great support by providing her with information on living with and beyond breast cancer, offering emotional and practical support.

She says she is also grateful to her family and friends and the medics and auxiliary staff at the IRH particularly the 'exceptional' team from J North, surgeon Dr Musyoka, Alison Mitchell, who is a clinical breast care nurse and the team on F South, the oncology ward.

Joyce, who is also keen to thank the GPs and district nurses from Gourock Medical Practice, added: "I can't fault the care and compassion that I have been shown."

Following her operation, Joyce is feeling much stronger and is now undergoing 12 weeks of low dose chemotherapy.

After this she will have three weeks of radiotherapy at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre.

Joyce is positively looking to the future and is in the middle of organising a charity day in the Clyde Suite next May.

She's also contemplating a sponsored horse ride while her son Gianluca and his friend Gavin Williams are gearing up for a Brave the Shave in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

Joyce is meanwhile getting involved with the services at Ardgowan Hospice and has signed up for the Move More exercise programme, which is run by Inverclyde Leisure in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support to support cancer patients.

Joyce said: "People in Inverclyde are so generous.

"I spend a lot of my time crying and getting emotional because people have been so kind."

She hopes her story will encourage women of all ages to check their breasts every month and is also keen to raise awareness of her charity fundraising campaign.

Joyce said: "All cancers are indiscriminate.

"Cancer doesn't care, it's heartless.

"Probably most people know someone that has been affected by cancer.

"Breast cancer doesn't make you feel sick, it doesn't make you lose weight, it's just there hiding.

"So that's why it's really important that people do check their breasts monthly."

Anyone who would like to donate to Joyce's fundraising page can do so at