A Peterborough cancer survivor is backing a new awareness campaign from Cancer Research UK highlighting the power of legacy giving in saving lives.
Sue Dunthorne, 57, who works at Longthorpe Primary School, has benefitted from research after being diagnosed with non Hodgkin lymphoma in October 2012 and treated successfully.
Now she is urging people in Cambridgeshire to follow her example and leave a lasting gift for future generations by including a donation to Cancer Research UK in their Will.
Gifts in Wills fund over a third of Cancer Research UK’s life-saving work. Last year, around 60 people in Cambridgeshire helped to write an end to cancer by leaving legacy gifts to the charity which raised over £1.7 million for vital research.
Sue said: “Being diagnosed with cancer turned my life upside down. It was a terrible shock, especially as I was only given four to six weeks to live. But thanks to research I’m still here.”
Sue was given chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy. As part of her treatment she was also given tamoxifen, a hormone therapy more commonly used to treat breast cancer patients but occasionally used for other cancers. Cancer Research UK’s work helped find the best way for doctors to use this important drug, which has saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
Now fit and well, the school teaching assistant is looking forward to fulfilling her wish to visit America in 2018 five years after doctors gave her the ‘all clear’.
She said: “I had been unwell since the beginning of 2012 and was also looking after my ill parents.
“I went on a school trip in June and fell and hurt my left ankle. I was taken to Cromer Hospital where it was x-rayed and found to be broken in two places.”
When Sue, returned four weeks later to have the plaster removed, it was found to have completely healed, faster than doctors would have expected.
She added: “They were quite confused by how quickly it healed. What they didn’t know at the time was that I had a tumour which meant my white blood cells were working overtime and made it heal so fast.”
Sue, who has been married for nearly 30 years and has a daughter, 28, and son, 24, continued to feel tired and also suffered from back pain which prevented her from sleeping.
“The pain gradually became unbearable, so my GP referred me to hospital where they kept me in and carried out a number of tests over a period of 10 days.
“A scan revealed that I had a large tumour, 27 centimetres long, in my lower abdomen, and a biopsy confirmed it was non-Hodgkin lymphoma.”
Sue, who lost her father to oesophageal cancer in May 2013, was about to start chemotherapy when doctors discovered that the cancer had already spread throughout most of her body.
“They told me it was worse than they originally thought and that I might only have 4-6 weeks to live without treatment. My mind just went blank and everything faded into the background.
“The cancer had spread into my back and to my chest. I had chemotherapy injected into my veins and directly into my spine to kill any cells in my spinal fluid.”
Sue finished her treatment in May 2013 but then a follow-up scan revealed the tumour had returned, so she was referred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge to receive radiotherapy. She was given the all clear in October 2013 but continues to have six monthly scans to check that the cancer has not returned.
She continued: “By leaving a gift in their Will – no matter how big or small the donation – people in Peterborough can give many more families like mine the incredible gift of hope.
“I’m so grateful for the treatment that saved my life. Success stories like mine would not be possible without Cancer Research UK’s groundbreaking work, which in turn relies on everyone who donates much needed funds.
“That’s why I’m supporting this vitally important campaign and will be leaving a legacy gift to Cancer Research UK. I can’t think of a better way to say thank you, than by helping to raise funds for research that will create a brighter future for generations to come.”
Sue has now set her sights on visiting Las Vegas in America in 2018 for her 60th birthday.
“My goal is to go to Las Vegas when I have been cancer free for five years. If it wasn’t for the research I wouldn’t be here. Despite being told I might not live I’m still here two years on. So I plan to go there to celebrate.”
Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, Cancer Research UK spent over £42 million in East Anglia last year on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.
This work is wide-ranging, from understanding the causes of cancer and investigating new ways to prevent it, to detecting it earlier and developing better treatments.
Danielle Glavin, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the East of England, said: “Survival rates have doubled in the past 40 years and today half of those diagnosed with cancer will survive. But half is not enough. There are over 200 types of cancer and we won’t stop until we find cures for them all.
“The more research we are able to do the sooner that day will come and that’s why we urgently need support. So we’re calling on people across the East of England to consider including a legacy gift for Cancer Research UK in their Will and help us write an end to cancer.”
For more information about leaving a gift to Cancer Research UK in your Will, call 0800 077 66 44 for an information pack.