AN INSPIRATIONAL Greenock woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was at the peak of physical fitness says her battle with the illness helped her discover her 'inner grit'.

Gaynor Lochhead, 46, endured over five months of chemotherapy and a course of radiotherapy after finding a lump in 2018.

The support worker says her 16-month experience has taught her a lot about herself and about what's important in her life.

Now in remission, Gaynor is going back to work.

Gaynor, of Caddlehill Street, says her faith and the support of friends and family got her through.

She said: "When I was diagnosed I was really frustrated.

"I felt like it was a massive inconvenience to my life.

"I knew that I wanted to be positive about it - for myself and for my family.

"It wasn't a terminal diagnosis - I saw it as a chapter we would get through and come through the other side of."

In 2018, Gaynor began to change her lifestyle by running, swimming and strength training five or six days a week.

She was also working more than 40 hours a week in her job as a support worker for the Quarriers charity.

Gaynor said: "The training developed a real endurance, perseverance, determination and self control in me.

"I was working really hard and running 12k twice a week.

"I believe that the spiritual and physical are intrinsically linked and it felt like God was preparing me for something else.

"I was at peak fitness when I felt a stabbing pain in my breast at 3am - I just knew what it was."

Gaynor was diagnosed with an aggressive stage three cancer in June 2019 and started her treatment the following month.

She had booked a holiday with her dad and was determined to still enjoy her time away.

After returning from her break, she started treatment two days later.

Gaynor endured 22 weeks of chemo which reduced the tumour by 99 per cent.

She had prepared herself for a mastectomy but surgeons were able to remove the affected area and she underwent reconstructive surgery in January this year before beginning a course of radiotherapy.

She is now officially in remission.

Throughout the whole experience, Gaynor says she was calm and pragmatic.

She acknowledges she couldn't have done it without the NHS - especially the team in F South.

She said: "The NHS was absolutely amazing.

"I had a diagnosis and treatment plan within a fortnight.

"The chemo was horrific and the side effects were cumulative.

"I would be out walking after it, and three of four days later it would hit me like a sledgehammer.

"I've never been good at receiving help from people but I just thought 'I need to be a support worker for myself now'."

Alongside the support of friends and family, Gaynor believes that her faith steered her through her battle.

She added: "My faith helped me so much.

"When I needed my faith I was covered.

"It helped me to identify what I've taken from the experience - strength, wisdom and revelation."

Gaynor had to shield during lockdown and admits it was a struggle given her positive outgoing mindset.

She added: "I got the letter telling me I was vulnerable and I had to shield.

"By that point I didn't feel vulnerable - I felt invincible."

Fraser Donaldson at Hope Community Church was a great support to Gaynor throughout, as were Colin Campbell and the team at Kidron - a local organisation which provides support with life skills and health and wellbeing.

With help from Kidron, Gaynor is now preparing to go back to work.

She says her bosses at Quarriers have been 'amazing' and she can't wait to get back into the job supporting adults with varying needs.

She added: "They've been checking in with me and have been asking how I was coping.

"Now I have to shift my mindset from warrior and recovery to integrating back into the workplace.

"I've had 16 months to really think about what matters in my life and I want to get more involved in the community.

"That's where my heart is."

Gaynor admits that she had dark days in her 16 month journey, and has sent out an uplifting message to anyone battling cancer.

She told the Tele: "Don't be fearful, everything is out there to support you.

"Don't brush your dark days aside and don't let your illness define you.

"See it as an opportunity to discover your inner grit."