AN INSPIRATIONAL breast cancer survivor battling debilitating illnesses has turned her life around to live life to the full – and today even calls billionaire businessman Lord Alan Sugar her boss.

Geraldine Staples thought her life was over and began planning her own funeral when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2006 and today faces a daily battle with a number of health issues. She relies on an insulin pump for Type 1 diabetes and has a replacement elbow due to severe rheumatoid arthritis.

But inspired by her own battles, not only does Geraldine work at the Macmillan Unit at Christchurch Hospital making a difference to people with incurable conditions, she is also a senior manager for a natural beauty company owned by The Apprentice’s Susan Ma and business partner Lord Sugar promoting good health and wellbeing.

The mum-of-one, from Christchurch, said: “Every day I get up is a battle with my various health problems but I get on with it. From the day you get told you have cancer, it changes you.

“You re-evaluate your whole life. You don’t worry about the small stuff anymore and say yes to opportunities. I feel very blessed and I wake up every day and live life to the full. I have scars but it is what makes us who we are.

“I would never ever imagined I would be living and loving life the way I am now and standing on stage with Alan Sugar and Susie! I feel very proud.”

Speaking for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Geraldine was diagnosed with grade three aggressive breast cancer aged 40 after finding a lump on her breast.

“At that point my whole world came tumbling down around me," she said.

“I just broke down. I couldn’t help it. Every emotion I had inside me from when I first found the lump was coming out of me. It wasn’t until later that night when I was on my own that it dawned on me I had the big ‘C’ word.

“All I could think about was my son who was seven at the time. I felt frightened, scared, sick, my immediate thoughts were I want to see my son grow up into a man, see him get married, have a family of his own and the normal day to day things you see through life, all the ups and downs.

“I even started planning my own funeral.

“Nothing quite prepared me for what I was going to have to go through. I knew I had no choice but to face it head on.”

Ten days later Geraldine had a lumpectomy before further surgery to remove more of the tumour bed and lymph nodes.

Chemotherapy every three weeks for six months and radiotherapy followed.

“The day I lost my hair was terrible. I remember washing it over the bath at the time and it just kept falling out. In the end my neighbour shaved the lot off. I can only say to look at yourself in the mirror and have no hair was heartbreaking for me.”

But determined to stay positive, Geraldine took up running, even completing a Race for Life.

“I knew it would be a long recovery but nothing prepared me for just how long. I cried behind closed doors as I didn’t want to breakdown in front of family and friends as I needed to stay strong, for me.

“Things started to settle down and it was a case of trying to get back to normality.”

Geraldine said: “I have had quite a few lumps and operations up until now and fingers crossed I will stay okay. Of course I worry about what’s around the corner but I wake up and I feel blessed and so lucky to be alive and to be here with family and friends.

“Having worked at Macmillan Caring Locally now for nearly five years, I see the different side of cancer and realise just how different things could have turned out for me.

“Unfortunately we are always full, the unit never shuts. It can’t.

“I see on a daily basis what goes on here and how amazing the staff, volunteers, cleaner, admin, just everyone who comes into work are and it is really inspiring.”

Two years ago, a chance meeting meant Geraldine took on another role – as an ambassador then independent manager for Tropic Skincare, which has seen her travel the world and attend events with the company's high-profile bosses.

Geraldine said: “Tropic is 100 per cent naturally derived with ingredients like macadamia butter, aloe vera and eucalyptus and contains no toxic chemicals, something I am very passionate about after everything my body has been through. It is more important than ever to educate people about the side effects of synthetic chemical ingredients and the importance of leading a natural lifestyle.

“I feel very passionately about not using synthetic chemicals on our skin and I’m proud to be part of something to promote healthier living.

"I love life and will keep doing everything I can to make a difference and have fun along the way."