"The beast" has felled her mother, her older sister, five of her aunts, one great, great aunt and six of her cousins . Another cousin in the United States has just found out that "the beast" has attacked her too.
"I feel like I'm standing in the middle of the M25 waiting for a lorry to hit me," says Shirley McQueen, 44, who runs an upmarket clothes shop in Chelsea in England.
"The beast" is a particularly virulent form of breast cancer: " Every woman who has died in my family has died of breast cancer," she says.
"The women in my family haven't lived long enough to see their grandchildren. When my older sister was diagnosed, her daughter was pregnant and she said she was going to hang on to see the baby, but she didn't manage it. If I ask to be here to see my grandchildren, am I asking too much?"
McQueen grew up in Grenada and barely knew her mother, who divided her time between the Caribbean island and her job as a nurse at the Jewish Hospital in London's Mile End.
When she was five her mother arrived home from London, very sick. She was carried out of the car and up to bed, where she remained until she died of breast cancer, 14 days later. Treatment she had received in London had failed to halt the rampage of the disease.
"Death was accepted far more in the Caribbean than it is here. I was told that my mother had come home from England and that she was dying," she says matter-of-factly.
McQueen's childhood was punctuated by the deaths of other female relatives and she has a horror of her two children Antonio, 20, and Peaches, 17, experiencing the same loss.
One aunt was given radiation treatment, but she received too large a dose and her breast was burnt by it; another had a huge hole in her breast which relatives filled with bread, suggesting that maybe the tumour would eat that instead of her body.
Her father, who she says was a good manPage: 1 2 3 4 Related medicine news :1
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