Condition: Bladder Cancer
Lynne tells her story in the kitchen at her dad’s house in Hethersett. Her dad sits in the front room watching television while she talks to me.
Cancer has sadly always been in Lynne’s family. Her mum’s sister died of extensive secondary cancer in 1999 and not long afterwards her mum was diagnosed with liver cancer. Sadly it was found too late and Lynne lost her mum in 2001, aged 68. Her mum’s other sister also died in 1997, again of extensive secondary cancer, aged only 59 and her mum’s brother died in 2006 of lung cancer, aged 70.
Lynne was part of the team who helped set up the Norwich Big C Centre in 2006. She used to be a health and safety advisor at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and was part of making sure the Centre was a safe and welcoming building to be in. She’s very proud of being part of such a move for Big C and for the people of Norfolk.
However, in November 2009, Lynne found a lump in her breast. “I remember the day well. I had been on a wreath making class. Afterwards I had a shower and found a lump.”
Lynne worked at the hospital at the time so the Big C Centre became her bolt-hole. “I could take my badge off and just be Lynne.”
Lynne had a lumpectomy and radiotherapy but decided to carry on working through her treatment. She’d start the day with a coffee at the Centre before work and describes it as being crucial to helping her through that period. She also had massages and describes them as “amazing” and visited the Look Good Feel Better make up workshops. She also made the most of the Welfare Advice service, receiving advice about insurance and holidays.
Lynne is now four years clear of cancer but is still taking medication. She says, “I visited the labs at UEA to see what they were researching and to find out a bit more. I found out scientists are looking for a 10 year post-breast cancer medication. Knowing there’s medication being researched has really helped me get through treatment. Knowing there are better outcomes for longer has been a huge help to me.”
In 2010, after her operation, Lynne and her beloved husband Pete visited Gretna Green to renew their wedding vows. She’s so glad they did.
In 2012, Pete went to the doctors with what he thought was a urinary tract infection. He took antibiotics but there was no change. The doctors investigated more and found he had bladder cancer. He had a minor operation but it was discovered he needed major surgery.
After that the Big C Centre became home from home. Pete used it as much as Lynne did. She says, “We’d go there rather than a restaurant. If we had an appointment we’d go there in plenty of time to make use of the Centre, chill, have a coffee. It was nice for Pete having people other than me to talk to.”
Lynne felt she wanted to give something back to the Big C Centre. So she held a fundraising event making pink hampers and selling raffle tickets. She raised £300 and it bought one of the recliner chairs, which is used in the Centre now.
Pete came out of hospital and started to get better. He was able to walk around, they visited places like Felixstowe and he enjoyed the sun.
However, Pete soon began to have pain in his legs. He had a scan at the hospital and it revealed that cancer was around the muscles in his hips. Lynne says, “This was the hardest, most testing time for me. The consultants were also devastated. This is where we saw the human side of medicine. We all cried together. They knew there was nothing more they could do.”
Pete died in October 2013. Lynne says, “I hated 2013. Pete told me before he died that I mustn’t sit and mope as it wouldn’t bring him back and that I had to go and play my bowls. At that point I also found out my dad had lymphoma. This and Pete’s words motivated me to set up a 24 hour bowls event in support of Big C. Both Big C and bowls had been my rocks through all of this.”
Just after Pete died, Lynne managed to get through Christmas. She went to her dad’s. But in January Lynne’s dad was taken ill. “He kept getting bad infections. In mid January we were told dad only had 6 weeks to live. Dad stabilised though and now I stay with him at his house a couple of nights a week”.
When talking about one particular experience at the Big C Centre Lynne couldn’t contain her tears any more. She was overcome with emotion as she talked about going into the Centre after Pete died. “I visited the Centre not long after Pete died and when my dad was so unwell. The Centre staff asked me how I was. I burst into tears, much like now even thinking about it. No one had asked me how I was and I hadn’t thought about it. I’d been practical until then.”
Lynne’s expression changed after that. She looked thoughtful. She explained that before Pete died he decided to send her on a journey. “He wanted me to take his ashes all around the world. He was a wood turner and he turned his own carrier for his ashes. He wanted them scattered in all the significant places we had visited in the world. I’ve already been to Ireland, Scotland – the Colodon Battlefield and I have many more to go to. I have a journey ahead of me. Some I’ll visit on my own, some with friends. I’m going to Paris on my own to sit on the banks of the River Seine with cheese, bread and wine and sprinkle his ashes into the river. I’m also going to Cuba with some friends. I’ll have to get special permission to take his ashes abroad with me.”
With her travels and her bowls, Lynne certainly has been kept busy following advice from her beloved husband. Her bowls event raised a staggering £6,500 plus gift aid. She put a lot into the promotion of the bowls event, such as wearing a pink wig in different places such as restaurants and trawled the streets of Diss with a Rod Stewart lookalike and a Big C bucket! She describes the whole event as “an amazing pulling together of the group. It was good for the bowls club, good for the town and good for Big C.”
Update: Sadly, since I met Lynne in her Dad’s home, he since passed away from his cancer, in August 2014. Lynne says, “despite being very ill, Dad found a friendly welcome, two pots of tea and a comfy recliner in the Big C Centre just two days before he lost his heroic battle.”