IT'S unlikely that Jo-anne Warburton will ever complain about her husband's nagging.

For it was his persistence that made her seek medical help - and catch a potential killer disease in time.

One day in the shower, in February 2003, Jo-anne found a lump in her breast.

She felt she had no reason to be alarmed - after all, she was only 32.

She didn't smoke, she wasn't overweight and she had no history of breast cancer in her family.

Jo-anne had started her family young and also breastfed her three children - measures known to reduce the risk of developing a tumour.

But she mentioned her find to husband Alex, 34, who drives a concrete mixer for Readymix.

"I wasn't worried," she said. "The lump didn't hurt, but it was big enough to notice."

Her doctor, too, didn't seem overly concerned.

Jo-anne, a nursery nurse assistant at Play To Learn in Brighouse, said: "The GP set my mind at ease and said it would probably be fine.

"So I was sent to the breast clinic at the Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax. They had a feel, and I had a mammogram, and a biopsy.

"That's when I first got worried, they seemed to be rushing me through. Alex and I went back for the results. They take you into a room to tell you and we just couldn't believe it.

"I just thought: `That's it, I'm going to die.' We were both in shock. You honestly don't think something like that is going to happen to you.

"I never did the checks you're supposed to - but I'd urge everyone to, now."

Jo-anne continued: "The worst part is telling other people. My parents, my friends, my colleagues had all been saying: `It'll be nothing.' To have to face them and say: `Actually, it is something' was very hard. My mum was in tears."

Jo-anne, of Tofts Grove, Rastrick, had a full mastectomy and lymph nodes removed.

"I was pleased," she said. "I just wanted rid of it."

Examination of the tumour showed it was hormone-fed - meaning it was an easier cancer to deal with through hormone treatment. Drugs have caused hot flushes and the onset of an early menopause - side effects Jo-anne is happy to put up with.

As mum to Jacob, 16, Daisy, eight, and Eden, four, she felt she had completed her family and was not worried about the threat of not being able to have more children.

Next came chemotherapy and Jo-anne tried out a new programme combining two types of the treatment, being pioneered by Cancer Research.

"Even chemo wasn't that bad," she said. "It's the fear of the unknown that terrifies people. It's not pleasant but I'd go for my sessions and we'd be laughing and joking.

"Cancer's not a death sentence, it's not the end of the road. I didn't lose my hair - though it thinned a bit, and I had it cut into a shorter style.

"I didn't want to be seen as a `cancer victim' and I wanted to be treated normally. But it was understandably hard for people who didn't know what to say to me."

Now, Jo-anne is gearing up for reconstructive surgery - the final step in her recovery process. At present she's wearing a saline-filled balloon to stretch her skin before a permanent implant is added.

Last year Jo-anne took part in the Race For Life in Huddersfield for the first time, wearing a T-shirt that said "In celebration of me!" on it.

"I'm not much of a runner, I have to say I walked round - but my excuse is that Daisy was with me," she said. "This time there's a big group of us - me, Daisy and Eden, my mum, my sister and her two children!"