Endoscopy specialist nurse Cath Berry was at the forefront of Cancer Research's World Cancer Day this week both in memory of her Dad and in celebration of her Mum.
Last year, Cath's Dad, John Fuller, was diagnosed with lung cancer and sadly died and while he was poorly, her Mum, Christine, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
It was a very tough time for Cath (who was also on maternity leave).
Cath, recalls about finding out about her Dad's diagnosis. “It was really hard when I saw it written down in black and white, saying your Dad has lung cancer. It knocked me back and I didn’t want to believe it. Dad was willing to have any treatment he could. I have two young children and my older brother Jonathan, 41, has a three-year-old son, and he desperately wanted to see all his grandchildren grow up.
“But the cancer had spread to his pleural cavity (the space between his lungs) and was too advanced for surgery. He had chemotherapy, which was really successful initially at shrinking his cancer. But it then became resistant to the chemo and started growing back really aggressively. He was given one lot of immunotherapy, but dad gradually got worse. We were then told there was nothing else they could do.”
Cath, was still on maternity leave last summer and caring for her Mum when her Dad was poorly when her Mum was called her for a routine breast screening appointment and after it got a letter saying she needed to go back and, after further tests, cancer was confirmed.
She recalls: “I was worried about how I was going to look after them both. After seeing how poorly cancer made Dad, I didn’t want to now see Mum going through the same.”
But thankfully, the outlook was much more positive for Christine because her cancer was detected in the early stages. Her surgery was a success, removing the cancer without the need for chemotherapy and Christine continues to do well.
For Cath, who has to break news of cancer to patients, it was a learning curve.
“Telling someone they have cancer is awful. I had always tried to give that news in a way I would want to receive it. To try and be as empathetic as possible and tell them in the nicest way possible, answering any questions and try to alleviate concerns.
“But I never expected I would find myself at the receiving end of that cancer news. To be sitting there with my Dad, and then with my Mum, while someone else is saying ‘I think it is cancer’ was horrible.
“I saw how the way Dad and Mum were told made such a huge difference to us as a family. I have now taken my personal experience back to work to make sure I can give that news to my patients even better - helping them take it all in, explaining what is going to happen and reassuring them everything is going to be done as quickly as possible. Anything I can do to make their cancer journey just a little bit easier for them."
Cath and her Mum now wear a Unity Band in support of Cancer Research. Survival has doubled in the last 40 years in the UK.
Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Yorkshire, said: “We are very grateful to Catherine and Christine for their support and showing how important it is for everyone to wear a Unity Band on World Cancer Day.
“Our research has played a role in developing eight of the world’s top 10 cancer drugs and we’re working every day to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease. But we can’t do it alone.
“By making a donation of just £2 for a Unity Band, people in Yorkshire will be funding world-class research to help more people, like Christine, survive. Together, we will beat cancer.”
To get a Unity Band and make a donation, visit Cancer Research UK shops, including 5 Ramsden St, Huddersfield, or go online at cruk.org/worldcancerday