Farewell Issy

“I vow that to my last breath I’m going to fight and be positive — not because it will cure me but because it will make sure that really, in the end, I won.” Ismena Clout

 10647186_10154765678395727_8009831046116078865_nIsmena Clout
7 September 1974 – 15 September 2014

In Issy’s short life she made a huge splash in many many ways.  She was gutsy and determined.  She was passionate and driven.  She believed in and loved her career.  She was fiercely loyal to her friends, old and new.  She was my friend.

We became friends because of cancer.  No, in spite of cancer.  We met at a group for people diagnosed in their 20s, 30s and 40s – always in a bar and for Issy and I, often with bubbles in our hands!  Then we discovered that we are treated at the same hospital and live 5 minutes away from one another.  We found out we both loved fine dining, opera, travel and so much more.  Even though our friendship was a short one we, as Issy did so well, packed it full of fun adventures and made it count!

When I met Issy she had received her re-diagnosis.  She had metastatic breast cancer also known as secondary breast cancer.  Also known as advanced breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer or stage IV (there is no stage V).  We spoke about what this means and how misunderstood it often is.  Secondary breast cancer is a different beast to primary breast cancer diagnosis. There is little research into secondary breast cancer; little awareness; little information and little support.  Issy said it frustrated her sometimes that people assumed that it was the same disease and that the problems, side affects and emotional aspects were the same.   But then she also said she was grateful that only those affected by secondary cancers really understood them – it meant that others could live blindly and happy without knowing the truth.

What Issy achieved before her first diagnosis is well documented.  What she achieved in the years between her first and secondary diagnosis is amazing.  But what she achieved since her secondary diagnosis is astounding.  She was determined to achieve so much in her career, for however long that may be, to make an impact and leave a legacy.  She was immensely proud of her achievements but was so desperately upset when her health meant she had to stand down as a Chairman of the British Institute of Facilities Management.

She was also passionate about helping others with primary and secondary breast cancer.   Sharing her story via social media, writing for the Independent newspaper and then writing for Huffington Post as well as her own website A Bit of a Boob, “A journey from primary to living with secondary breast cancer”.  All the pieces written were candid, truthful and poignant.  A great insight about what it is like to live with a secondary diagnosis at such a young age.  I don’t think there was a dry eye for any reader when Issy wrote her piece “I can’t die without having been in love” – so brutally honest.

Issy worked with Breast Cancer Care on a number of their projects, including improving the landscape for secondary breast cancer awareness.  Breast Cancer Care now have specific information, forum, support and a small team dedicated to secondary breast cancer.  Her breast-less body adorned with her famous ‘Tittoo’ as part of a campaign was seen on public transport and received a great deal of attention and discussion.

n-ISMENA-CLOUT-large570She was also in the Sun Newspaper

1514962_10152751577242369_2127148765745651316_nI’ve seen, heard and read comments from people for whom Issy’s public persona has made the world of difference.  Young girls faced with mastectomy and for whom they cannot see themselves as beautiful or able to be loved because of the surgery…  Men and women with breast cancer who have lost their confidence taking the lead from Issy’s talking about her now body confident Tittoo.  Those diagnosed with secondary breast cancer reading avidly her blogs and relating so much to hear honest writing… until they read/spoke/heard Issy talk of her experiences.   Just since her passing on Monday there has been an overwhelming amount of comments on social media about how Issy helped/supported/encouraged/inspired so many people in so many different ways.

I was blessed to be able to share some great times with Issy.  When she was unwell, chemo taking its toll or just not up to going out, we’d ponder life’s mysteries, plot a new adventure or just have a jolly good rant over a few juices at her comfortable home or keeping her company in the chemo ward.  I was also party to a few of her big adventures as she worked her way through her list for life – Wimbledon, Verona, The Square, afternoon tea(s) and lots of champagne drinking.


One big milestone Issy wanted to celebrate was her 40th birthday.  Something that many of us take for granted and comment freely that ‘life begins at 40’.  She did celebrate, in style, only a week before her passing.  As always her generosity was to ask people to donate to St Raphael’s Hospice instead of any gifts.  As Issy said, it would be so much more useful to her than some Molton Brown!  Donations can still be made (together with any messages and tributes for her family) –  justgiving.com/Ismena40

10522057_10204833971191839_5375593899058501803_n “I vow that to my last breath I’m going to fight and be positive — not because it will cure me but because it will make sure that really, in the end, I won.” Ismena Clout

You sure did Issy.


PS  No. 18. La Traviata in Teatro alla Scala – I promise to do this for you… with bubbles xx

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