I was diagnosed in 1996. I had surgery and 20 sessions of radiotherapy at Mount Vernon. It was whilst I was waiting for a follow up appointment, a young lady ran pass me sobbing, her husband running behind to catch her up. It stirred something inside me that in 21st century, this young lady should not have had to expose herself in this distressed state. Having being diagnosed with cancer myself, I know it is a very lonely and frightening experience and can be a long journey.
I decided to write to the Chairman and the Chief Executive to ask if the trust had any plans for a breast unit. The answer was no. They simply did not have the funds. I asked if they would consider me fundraising for this service. I had no idea where to start, I had never been on a committee or done any fundraising. But I knew if I committed myself, I would do my very best. I felt very passionate to improve things for other women and men in Hertfordshire.
I started fundraising with a Line Dance which I enjoyed so much, I carried on doing after the fundraising event. I found it was great relief to concentrate on the steps, an escape from what I was going through at the time. I did not need a partner (as my husband does not dance) and it was something I could do on my own, for myself.
Over the years, we have held a whole host of events to raise money. We’ve held charity balls, sponsored zip slides, abseils, bike rides, jumble sales, and even rock & roll evenings. Other events include vintage car shows, duck races, raffles and quizzes as well as our “14 bridges of London” challenge and our version of “It’ s a knockout”. We’ve stood outside supermarkets collecting money and sold pins and pens to the general public.
There is a group of ladies called the “Fighting Breast Cancer Committee” who have held many events for us. All our trustees have helped with fundraising and are dedicated to the cause. In particular, trustee Sue Sexton has put on many events. The Wilde family Kim, Ricky, Mandy & Marty have held charity balls with many special guests which has really helped bring media attention to this very special cause.
Many people in the community have helped with their own events or by making donations. Their generosity is very much appreciated and their efforts have helped change breast service in Hertfordshire.
There have been so many moving moments and I recall a very single one of them with heartfelt gratitude. I once received a call from a mother. She and her very young daughter had seen my board with all the targets on and the young girl asked her mother what it was for. Her mother told her that I was collecting money to help people that where sick and her daughter replied that she wanted to help. The young girl saved up 70 pence and stuck it to the inside of a handmade card. I met her and as she handed it to me, it was very hard to contain the tears.
The Appeal has raised almost £2 million to date and this has enabled us to buy specialist equipment which helps diagnose cancer more quickly. I was awarded an MBE in 2007 for my services to Breast Cancer in Hertfordshire. It was such an honour, but I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of so many people. Far too many to mention, although I think my husband deserves a large chunk of the credit for his unwavering support over the years.
The unit was opened at the old QE11 in 2006, with the best equipment on the market. The service has now been moved into the new QE11 Hospital and we continue to update the equipment to ensure women and men in Hertfordshire receive the best possible care. The appeal has just purchased a new Prone Table at a cost of £150,000