Today is National Cancer Survivor day celebrating life after a diagnosis, marks milestones for those affected and acknowledges the support for those with cancer. Reporter MATT DISCOMBE speaks to three inspirational women with a message to share
BATTLING cancer requires determination, support and never giving up hope.
That’s according to Vicky Martin, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer three times in the last seven years.
Since beating cancer for the third time last year, the fitness instructor has set up Love Life Ladies Bootcamp in Stroud, which aims to keep women with cancer active to keep their spirits up while fighting the disease.
Vicky’s aim for 2014 is to raise money and spread awareness through a series of charity events with the Love Life Ladies’ Bootcamp Team. This will include running the Milton Keynes Marathon, the Race for Life and the Stroud Half Marathon.
She has made it their mission to raise at least £10,000 in 2014 for breast cancer charity, Coppafeel.
She said: “My advice for people with cancer is to try and keep positive as much as you can. Keeping fit and active was very important to me when I was undergoing treatments. It’s really important to keep busy.”
Vicky also writes a blog called ‘Bonkers for Boobies’ about her fitness and fundraising challenges this year.
In doing this she hopes not only to raise awareness of the importance of early detection of breast cancer in younger women.
She also wants to show how a three-time breast cancer survivor who has undergone major surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy in the last year can still do pretty much whatever she sets her mind too and that there is life after cancer treatment.
Vicky said: “I had loads of support from my family and friends when I was going through treatments. They really helped me through the other end of the treatment.”
In Gloucester, Joanne Sutherland has another cancer success story.
Six months of chemotherapy and three of radiotherapy saved her life after being diagnosed with breast cancer nine years ago.
Now she has launched her own support group, along with her friend Cathryn Rasdell, to help others after undergoing those nine months of treatment.
Charlie’s, named after her grandfather who died of cancer when she was 11, aims to provide a place where both cancer and post-cancer patients can meet others in the same situation and have a bit of fun together.
The group, set up in Quedgeley at the start of the year, now welcomes up to 30 people to each of its. Joanne, from Podsmead, said: “When you are diagnosed with cancer you can feel quite isolated because you don’t want to be a burden on your family and friends.
“That’s why I set up Charlie’s, so Gloucester has a place where people who either have cancer or who are recovering from it have a place to socialise and support each other. A lot of people who turn up don’t even talk about their cancer.”
Treatments and games are provided, including Reiki, Indian head massage, raffle, pool, snooker and darts. Charlie’s sessions are held at the Capital Venue in Edison Close on the Waterwells Business Park.
Joanne, who works for South West Ambulance Trust and runs her own business RnR Therapy, added: “It’s really important that we have a place like this in the city.
“Maggie’s in Cheltenham does a wonderful job but many people in Gloucester find that to be a bit too far.”
“My advice to anyone with cancer would be to use the support that’s out there, because there’s people who can help.”
Couple Lynne and Neil Garner have also being doing their bit to fight cancer by organising the annual Relay For Life event in the Forest of Dean.
They have organised the 24 hour relay walkathon at Lydney’s Forest Leisure Centre since 2004, and have since seen interest in the fundraiser grow over the years.
This year’s event, starting at noon on June 28, is expected to see 28 teams of eight to 15 people taking part.
Around 50 cancer survivors from the area are also expected to take part, and will wear T-shirts of the ‘Purple Army’ in a special ceremony.
Lynne, who was given a job at Cancer Research UK after organising the event in its first year, said: “Relay for life is about living life to the full and fighting back against the disease.
“We have made some amazing progress in fighting cancer in recent years and we won’t stop working until the day comes when doctors can cure every type of cancer.”
The event will also feature a candle of hope ceremony to remember those who have died of cancer and to celebrate the lives of those who have survived.
Lynne said: “There will be a real festival type atmosphere at the relay with families camping out during the night. It’s going to be a celebration of life .
“It’s very humbling to have worked with people who have survived cancer.
“They are amazing people and it’s so inspiring to be able to help them and be a part of their story.
“We want to show people with cancer that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
“My advice for people going through the illness is that friends and family, support groups and helplines are out there to support you.”
The event has raised from £60,000 to £80,000 for Cancer Research UK each year it has been held, Lynne said.
A team of cyclists will also form their own relay team as part of the event, as they attempt to ride from Lydney to Buckingham Palace in 24 hours.
Participants in the walk will come mainly from the Forest of Dean.
“When people are diagnosed they can often experience feelings of helplessness, but there’s always hope.”
National Cancer Survivors Day
National Cancer Survivors Day is the one day each year that communities across the globe come together to honour those who are living with a history of cancer.
NCSD provides an opportunity for cancer survivors to connect with other cancer survivors, celebrate milestones, and acknowledge the families, friends, healthcare providers, and cancer researchers who have supported them along the way.
It is a day for cancer survivors to stand together and show the world that life after a cancer diagnosis can be exciting, fulfilling, and inspiring.
A cancer survivor is anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life. Whether you’re in treatment, just diagnosed, or have been in remission for 20 years, you’re a cancer survivor.