Condition: Breast cancer, lung cancer, sarcoma and many more.
Claire and Dave share their story from the lounge of their bungalow in Smallburgh. They are lucky enough to live next to the village hall, where they’ve held a lot of parties in support of Big C.
Claire and Dave have suffered heart-breaking losses to cancer. Claire has lost her mum to lung cancer, their sister-in-law Mary, their niece Michelle, Claire’s uncle Morris, uncle Joe, auntie Beryl, cousin Rodney and Dave’s cousin’s wife Chris.
They have also had to watch other relatives fight their own cancer battles and come through the other side. Their niece Dawn was only in her 30s but thankfully pulled through. Claire’s sister Thelma and her cousin’s son Carl also had cancer. Claire herself also battled skin cancer.
Mary, Claire’s brother’s wife, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997. She was only in her 30s. She had a mastectomy but sadly the cancer returned nine years later to her ovaries. She spent a lot of time at the Norfolk & Norwich University hospital and whilst there, when she was well enough, she enjoyed spending time at the hospital based Big C Centre. She said it was the next best thing to being at home. Claire says, “She loved it. It was a much-needed break away from the hospital. She was so strong through her whole fight, right up until the end. She left behind two boys and Claire’s brother, who now holds barn dances in support of Big C, as well as holding the Mary Cooper Lavender Fund in her memory.”
Michelle, Claire’s sister’s daughter was also only in her 30s when she started to have pains in her leg. She was told it was sciatica. However, further tests revealed she was actually suffering from sarcoma. Sarcoma is a cancer of the body’s soft tissue (such as muscles). It can occur anywhere in the body including the arms and legs and in also in some organs such as the stomach or womb. Some types of sarcoma can affect bones. In Michelle’s case the cancer affected the large gluteal muscle. Claire says, “She was so brave and determined to beat the cancer for her children. Unfortunately after 5 years the cancer returned, it had spread to her bones breaking her clavicle. She had two young children – one had just started high school, the other was in primary school.”
Claire also talks about her own experience with skin cancer. She feels it was minor compared to what her loved ones have been through. She explains, “With skin cancer you can see it. Whereas with others that are inside, you can’t. You don’t know what’s going on.”
The doctor looked at her leg, with a suspect patch of skin and sent her for tests that day. Claire and Dave were very scared. Claire says, “The patch had been there for months but suddenly it kept getting bigger and became raised. Within a week it had changed dramatically. Fortunately it could be treated and I came through OK.” Dave adds, “Knowing so many people who’ve had cancer it will always make us think the worst. We will always get anything suspect checked out now”.
Claire then starts talking about her Mum, who died in 2006 from lung cancer. During her illness her mum stayed for short breaks with various members of the family. For the last 8 months of her life she lived with Claire’s sister Glenda, who had given up her job to look after her. “Two weeks before mum died she didn’t want me to leave. So I made the decision to stay with her at Glenda’s. It really perked mum up as she knew she was going to die and she didn’t want my sister Glenda to be on her own with her when it happened.”
Dave starts to talk about what they’ve decided to do for Big C. “Our losses have been so great and so regular we wanted to support Big C in order to give something back to a local charity that had helped our family out when we needed it. It’s been a distressing time but doing this we’re turning our grief into something positive. We used to get such a lot of presents when we held anniversary parties or birthday parties – all of them lovely. But we have everything we need. So we thought why not turn our special occasions into fundraisers for a local charity that means so much to us.”
Claire and Dave have celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary, Dave’s 65th birthday and were part way through organising one for Claire’s 60th but sadly this was around the time that Michelle was very unwell so they decided to cancel. Instead they will have a party for Claire’s 65th. When sending out their invitations, the couple would include a donation envelope from Big C that their guests could bring with them on the day of the party. With their parties so far, they have raised in the region of £3,500 for Big C. Claire has also skydived, which was a 60th birthday gift from her children, and has completed three 5k races. Even two of the grandchildren have got involved and put on a show for the family at home, raising £10, every little helps!
Claire and Dave aren’t stopping there either. There will be more events to follow. Claire said, “We just want to continue to raise as much money as possible for this fantastic, local cause”.