Three years ago Major Mandy Islam was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer that affects bone marrow.
“So I got into powerboating because of cancer,” Major Islam told Forces News.
“I wanted to find myself; I had no eyebrows, no eyelashes, no hair and for me it was a case of I love things on the water, I love speed! Let’s bring them together and see how it all goes and thankfully very well.”
Cancer is the biggest killer of British Military personnel each year.
Major Islam is working with the Ministry of Defence to change the way serving personnel with life-changing illnesses are looked after.
Speaking at an event in Wellington Barracks on the issue, she said the military had been very supportive of her throughout the course of her illness:
“My employer, the Armed Forces, have never once demanded that I’ve been in work. In fact they have encouraged me to take things a little easier! But that’s not in my nature. It’s not in my nature because of my will to live.
“We haven’t nationally got to grips with how we manage people with life changing illnesses. So cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, those things affect everybody in everyday life.”
Lieutenant General Richard Nugee, Chief of Defence People, praised her as an, “extraordinarily vibrant woman who wants to do her bit for defence. And why wouldn’t we want to engage with that?”
Her friend, Jules Sheridan, described Major Islam as an “amazing inspiration to all of us.”
“I think she’s showing us all the way forward to lead with the way that people can change their attitude towards people with cancer. I think historically the c word was never said but now it’s there, we’re doing it.”