A North East mum-of-two who discovered she was pregnant 10 days after being diagnosed with breast cancer, is celebrating an extra-special event after this year’s Newcastle Race for Life.
Louise Wilson, from Whickham was 34-years-old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2015.
For the first time, her husband, Tony (38) is taking part in this year’s Race for Life on Sunday 14 July at the Town Moor, near Exhibition Park.
What’s more, Louise and her friends at LG Fitness are on track to hit a £30,000 fundraising target – which they’ve raised over four years.
To celebrate, Louise, in collaboration with Lois (29) at LG Fitness, has organised a special family fun day which is taking place at The Coachman, Whickham on Sunday 14th July from 2pm onwards.
The event is being generously supported by local businesses, who are providing a range of raffle prizes, entertainment on the day and the food and venue.
Along with the food (generously donated by the Coachman pub) there will be Disney princesses, a face painter, a bouncy castle, mud kitchens to play with, a DJ and a great atmosphere. Tickets are priced at £5 and under 12s get free entry, everything raised will be added to the fundraising pot and given to Cancer Research UK to help fund life-saving research.
Louise said: “This year’s Race for Life will be extra special as Tony will be there with me and I’ll be completing the track, knowing that we’re close to raising £30,000 for Cancer Research UK. More than 40 members of LG Fitness have signed up to take part and we’ll be celebrating our efforts afterwards at the family fun day.
“It’s open to members of the public who want to come along and have a good day out with their children, whilst raising money for a charity that is close to our hearts.
“My cancer diagnosis came after I found a lump, watching TV one night. It was completely by chance that I found it. The next day I booked an appointment to see my GP and after some persuasion by my mum, I got an appointment the following day.
“Despite initially thinking I should wait until my next period, the GP booked me into the breast clinic and I went along two weeks later with my mum. Somehow, I just knew what the outcome was going to be. I had an ultrasound and mammogram and the initial findings were there was a lump and another area on the same breast for concern and the lymph nodes didn’t feel right.
“While sat having a coffee between tests I said to my mum I think it’s cancer. As I expected the results came back positive confirming that I had ER positive breast cancer as well as it being detected in my lymph nodes, showing the disease had started to spread. We then began planning my treatment, which would start with surgery.”
“Within two weeks of my diagnosis I had a mastectomy, found out I was pregnant and completed the Race for Life in Gateshead.”
It was just ten days after her diagnosis, when Louise was at Centre Parcs celebrating her birthday with her husband Tony and daughter Poppy, then 2 years old and found out she was pregnant.
Louise added: “I just sat and cried. This was a pregnancy we had planned for, but now it seemed hopeless in light of my cancer diagnosis.”
Despite her worst fears Louise was reassured by her medical team that she could continue with the pregnancy as well as receiving treatment.
Louise, who works in the pharmaceutical industry, said: “My surgeon and the team were brilliant. A close friend who is an anaesthetist also helped ease my worries, so the surgery went ahead. I had a mastectomy and axillary node clearance. They found 9 of the 15 lymph nodes removed were cancerous and I had three tumours.”
When Louise reached her second trimester she began six cycles of chemotherapy, with some of the drugs altered due to her pregnancy.
She tolerated the treatment well and was fortunate not to have much sickness with it although she did lose her hair and was limited to what she could be given to treat some of the side effects.
She said: “Because I was pregnant they wanted to keep a closer eye on me during chemo, so I was transferred from my local hospital to the Cancer Centre at the Newcastle Freeman Hospital. I did feel like a bit of a freak sat with my headscarf on and pregnant, but I also received a lot of sympathetic looks.
“As well as looking after our first child and focusing on our pregnancy, I was working full time and we were undergoing a massive renovation of our house, so I had a lot to keep me distracted, it meant I didn’t have time to think about cancer.
“Although I had been diagnosed, there were still a lot of unknowns about the stage of my cancer because I wasn’t able to have certain scans due to the pregnancy. It played on my mind about how bad it could be and whether I was going to be around for the baby that I was bringing into the world.”
Louise completed chemotherapy in November 2015 and went on to deliver a healthy baby girl via planned caesarean on New Year’s Eve.
She said: “When Millie was born fit and well it was a huge relief. To be holding our daughter and to see the treatment hadn’t had an impact on her. There was no time to rest though and her arrival only meant the start of the next phase of treatment, 15 sessions of radiotherapy and CT scans to check the stage of the disease.”
Nearly four years on since her diagnosis, Louise is cancer free and continues to take the hormone therapy drug Letrozole as well as Zoladex to suppress her ovaries, to help reduce the risk of the cancer returning.
She dedicates her time and energy to volunteering at the Race for Life in the region.
“Having cancer changed a lot about me and my outlook on life and I know more than ever just how important Race for Life is in helping people like me beat cancer. I still struggle with the psychological impact of the disease especially around the time of my check-ups, but I also appreciate how fortunate I was to be able to have children and that this choice wasn’t taken away by treatment.
“I completed the Race, less than 2 weeks post-surgery, 7 weeks pregnant and not in my best physical state but I was determined to do it. I walked the course but I wasn’t alone, my wonderful trainer and all the ladies from Lois Gair’s Whickham bootcamp walked it with me and I crossed the finish line holding hands with just a couple of the people who would become my support over the following 7 months.”
She added: “My experience showed me it’s not about pounding the pavements or racing to the finish line; it’s about coming together to beat cancer sooner. I was determined to take part in that event despite what the previous two weeks had thrown at me. I believe it’s thanks to research that I’m standing here today.”
Louise’s husband Tony added: “I have been at the Race for Life each year supporting Louise and I am delighted that I get to run this year too. Cancer affects everyone and the more we can do to improve outcomes for patients the better.”
Jaelithe Leigh-Brown, Cancer Research UK’s Spokesperson for the North East, said: “We’re very grateful to Louise for her support and are delighted to hear that Tony is taking part in the Race for Life too. Louise and her friends have raised an amazing amount for Cancer Research UK, which will help fund life-saving research.
“By joining the Race for Life events in the North East, people can make a real difference in the fight against cancer. The Race for Life events are fun, colourful, emotional and uplifting. You don’t need to be sporty to take part. You don’t have to train, and you certainly don’t need to compete against anyone else.”
Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is an inspiring series of 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids events which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer by funding crucial research.
This year, for the first time, Cancer Research UK is inviting everyone – women, men and children – to join the Race for Life events.
Thanks to everyone who raises money, Cancer Research UK is able to support research to help beat 200 types of cancer. The good news is more people are surviving the disease than ever before. Cancer survival in the UK has double since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress.
To join the Race for Life, visit raceforlife.org
Tickets for the family fun day can be bought at the Coachman Inn, Whickham.