Face to face with BRONWEN GREEN

In her latest Face to Face interview, KAREN BETHELL talks to Bronwen Green who, after undergoing breast cancer surgery, took a new look at life and gave up a high flying career to realise her dream of working as a dog trainer .

In her latest Face to Face interview, KAREN BETHELL talks to Bronwen Green who, after undergoing breast cancer surgery, took a new look at life and gave up a high flying career to realise her dream of working as a dog trainer . . .

Because her father was in the armed forces, Yorkshire-born Bronwen spent her childhood travelling the world, attending no fewer than 27 schools.

Tragedy stuck when, 16-year-old Bronwen lost her mother, aged just 42, to breast cancer.

After taking A Levels, she left school and took a job in local government as an administrator, later training as a financial advisor with Barclays Bank at Witney, Oxfordshire.

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Bronwen then decided to start her own business producing training materials for the financial services industry, and eventually set up her own specialist publishing company, also editing a magazine whose subscribers included all the major banks and building societies.

Although her company was going from strength to strength, Bronwen yearned for the country life and, in 2001, she moved to Trunch and began juggling working from home with travelling to London to visit clients.

But, the following year, her world was turned upside down when, returning from a visit to a friend in the final stages of breast cancer, she found a lump under her arm.

Having suffered for many years with a series of benign tumour and severe mastitis, Bronwen had felt she was living with a 'timebomb waiting to go off'. Doctors confirmed her worst fears and she spent the following year undergoing gruelling chemotherapy before, in 2004, having a double mastectomy.

After being referred to Norwich-based consultant reconstructive, plastic and cosmetic surgeon Elaine Sassoon, Bronwen underwent a breast reconstruction operation, but, sapped of energy by the cancer treatment, she shortly afterwards decided to sell her business.

Bronwen was dealt further blows when her husband of 35 years walked out on her and both her beloved cocker spaniels died.

However, her confidence was given a boost when she was asked to help with a project dreamed up by Dr Sassoon, who wanted to produce a book aimed at helping women overcome the after-effects of breast cancer surgery.

Entitled The Boudica Within, it included the stories of 23 of Dr Sassoon's patients, all of whom had undergone reconstructive breast surgery, and all of whom agreed to pose naked for the book's accompanying photographs.

As well featuring in The Boudica Within, Bronwen helped track down photo locations for Dr Sassoon and photographer Andrea O'Hare.

Having promised herself that, if she survived cancer, she would lead a fun and fulfilling life, dog lover Bronwen then decided to realise her ambition of working with animals.

She set up Animal Magic Dog Training Club in 2006, running agility demonstrations at North Walsham with her new cocker spaniels Jamie and Pagan.

The club has since become a great success and Bronwen and fellow trainer Jo Belsten now run classes ranging from agility and obedience, to dancing with dogs and puppy training at various North Walsham venues, also recently launching a dog psychology course and an animal first aid course delivered by a local vet.

Animal Magic's 100-plus members take part in fundraising and social events, also giving demonstrations for youngsters at Sidestrand Hall School.

For more information about classes, phone 01263 722669 or email bronwen@animalmagic.wanadoo.co.uk

The Boudica Within is available from Erskine Press at www.erskine-press.com

What is the best thing about your job

Having fun and meeting lots of lovely dogs and their owners - since I started Animal Magic, I have never laughed so much in my life and that's a fact. I'll never make a fortune, but it beats taking the 5 o'clock to Liverpool Street!

And the worst?

Working the cold and wet, but, because one of our most popular courses is obedience on walks, it is unavoidable.

Where do you go to unwind?

For a long walk, to the pub, or for a ride on my horse, Hazel.

What is the one possession you would save if your house was on fire?

I'm not very possession-orientated, but I'd probably save my jewellery as, although it's not worth much, it holds very special memories.

What is your favourite Norfolk building?

The Forum in Norwich because it is so light and airy and, when it's cold and miserable, it is a lovely place to go.

Have you ever done anything outrageous?

Yes, I had my picture taken starkers for the book The Boudica Within! I was the first one to be photographed and it is daunting to take your clothes off anyway, but to do it when you've had surgery is really scary. However, there was a great atmosphere (and champagne!) and once we got going it was fine.

What is your greatest achievement?

Apart from dogs, food is my other great passion, so I was really pleased when, in 2000, I came third in the Daily Mail Cook of the Year competition.

And your proudest moment?

The one and only time I entered Crufts, both my dogs were placed and I was absolutely ecstatic.

Who do you most admire?

The surgeon Elaine Sassoon, just for her amazing skills and one hundred per cent dedication. She's got a brain the size of the universe, incredible stamina and she gives people hope. When cancer is usually destructive, she makes in constructive.

What makes you angry?

Injustice and people not caring about others.

Favourite book film and TV programme?

Book: Lord of the Rings, film: Mary Poppins and TV show either Morse or Poirot.

How would you like to be remembered?

For making people and their dogs happy - but I don't want to be remembered for a long time yet!