Last Christmas Jackie Pickering was looking forward to celebrating the usual festivities surrounded by her cherished family. But her future was thrown into uncertainty when she discovered a small lump on her left breast.
After visiting her GP in January to discuss her concerns, Jackie, aged 59, from Waterthorpe in Sheffield, was immediately referred for a mammogram followed by a biopsy.
Ten days later she was given the devastating diagnosis of breast cancer.
Jackie, who has been married to husband Dennis for 10 years, underwent surgery at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital followed by treatment at Weston Park Hospital.
On arriving at Weston Park, Jackie was offered the chance to take part in a new clinical trial which involved testing new treatments for her particular type of breast cancer.
“When I was offered the chance to take part in a trial I knew that with my help and participation now, other breast cancer patients in the future could benefit and in a way that gave me a sense of purpose,” said Jackie.
She was treated in newly refurbished facilities on the hospital’s clinical research unit and is now backing Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which runs throughout October, as well as planning a fundraising event for the research department at her local pub.
The £1 million unit, opened in May by charity patron and former Olympian Sarah Stevenson, was funded through the Do Your Bit campaign with the support of Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity, insurance group Westfield Health and Yorkshire Cancer Research.
The number of cancer patients taking part in clinical trials in Sheffield has risen in recent years, with one in five patients in 2014 compared to one in 25 in 2000.
Dr Matt Winter, consultant oncologist and breast cancer specialist at Weston Park Hospital, said: “We are currently conducting several important international trials in Sheffield that are aiming to see if we can continue to improve on reducing the risk of breast cancer recurrence.
“Jackie was keen to take part in the trial and is now several months into her treatment that she receives on the new unit.”
Although there is still some time to go before Jackie’s treatment is complete, she said she is looking to the future positively and is hoping to enjoy more holidays.
“I have never once felt alone during my time at the hospital and that’s thanks, in no small part to the staff, but also to the other patients who are going through similar situations,” she added.
“My sessions have almost turned into group meetings amongst friends, as we all swap experiences and share our stories.”
Despite struggling with fatigue, Jackie is determined to do whatever she can to support the cancer charity’s work.
She said: “Having a world-renowned cancer hospital in the city where you live is a huge bonus and to hear the news that you have cancer and be able to think ‘That means being treated at Weston Park Hospital’ was the most reassuring memory I have of my diagnosis.
“It makes me feel proud that we have this fantastic facility in Sheffield and I will do whatever I am able to so that other patients in the future can benefit from the same exceptional level of care.”
Fundraising manager Helen Gentle said, “Jackie is an incredibly inspirational woman and has faced her diagnosis with such bravery and strength.
“Thanks to patients like Jackie who are partaking in clinical trials we are able to shape the future of cancer research in Sheffield so that our understanding and treatment of the disease can become more effective.”
For more information visit www.wphcancercharity.org.uk or call 0114 226 5370.
Condition affects 55,000 annually
Every year nearly 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK - the equivalent of one person every 10 minutes.
One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
The disease is the second most common cause of death from cancer in women in the UK.
Nearly 12,000 people die from breast cancer in the UK every year.
The condition also affects men, but it’s rare – around 400 men are diagnosed annually.
There are three main risk factors for the disease. Being a woman is the biggest risk factor for developing breast cancer, while getting older also contributes - the older the person, the higher the risk. More than 80 per cent of breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50. Most men who get breast cancer are over 60.
The third main risk factor is significant family history - however, this isn’t common. Around five per cent of people diagnosed with breast cancer have inherited a faulty BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
More than eight out of 10 patients survive beyond five years.