When three generations get diagnosed with cancer at the same time, they all pull together. Now, after surviving their ordeal, a mum and daughter join forces with their granddaughter to honour a much-loved mum, grandma and great grandma
Three generations of a family – two of whom have had cancer – will pay tribute to a loved one who died from the disease at this year’s Cancer Research UK Race for Life.
Heather Colson, 64, and her daughter Debi Griffin, 34, of Warton, who were both treated for breast cancer in 2018, are preparing for the 5k walk in memory of 82-year-old Betty Lonsdale.
Debi’s daughter and Heather’s granddaughter Charlotte, 15, will also be taking part.
Betty was diagnosed with lung and liver cancer in August 2017 – the day her daughter Heather finished her treatment for breast cancer and the day before her grand-daughter Debi discovered she had breast cancer. Betty, from Glusburn in Yorkshire, died just two weeks later.
Whilst Heather has now finished her cancer treatment, her daughter Debi was later diagnosed with secondary triple negative breast cancer in her sternum and is beginning chemotherapy for the second time.
Heather and Debi are now encouraging men, women and children to sign up to a Race for Life event.
There are events at Moor Park in Preston including Pretty Muddy 5k obstacle course on Saturday June 15 and a 5k and 10k on Sunday June 16 as well as a 5k and 10k Race for Life in Blackpool on Wednesday July 10th where Debi and Heather will be setting off the participants.
Heather, a respiratory administrator from South Shore, Blackpool, said: “I’m so proud to join this year’s Race for Life alongside my daughter and granddaughter. They were a huge support when I was diagnosed with cancer and I couldn’t have gone through it without them. It’ll be a very special moment to join them on the course and cross the finish line together.”
Grandmother-of-four Heather was first diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2007 following a routine mammogram and successfully treated. She discovered her breast cancer had returned in April 2017 and was treated with surgery and radiotherapy at Blackpool Royal Hospital.
As Heather was nearing the end of her treatment mum-of-three Debi, of Warton, near Preston, found a lump the size of a golf ball in her left breast. She delayed going to the doctors for two weeks because she was in the middle of looking after Heather, but was diagnosed in August 2017.
Debi, a teaching assistant, said: “I swayed between the panic that I had breast cancer as well, to telling myself not to be daft it couldn’t possibly happen to us both at the same time. I didn’t see the doctor for two weeks because I put myself at the bottom of the priority list.”
When Debi saw her GP, she was referred for tests but told not to panic because she was young. However, after the tests at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, Debi was called back in and told she had triple negative breast cancer – a rarer type of breast cancer.
She said: “It all became a bit of a blur when they told me it was cancer. I just went into shock and my husband Brett listened to all the details. The worst thing was the day before I got the news we’d lost my grandmother, Betty, to cancer, so it was such a chain reaction of bad news.
“I just thought this can’t be happening. I thought the worst thing would be having to tell my mum, but she was great. She gave me a hug and told me ‘right let’s get rid of it.’”
Debi, a student at Preston’s College, began chemotherapy in September last year at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. After eight rounds of chemotherapy over three months, Debi had a mastectomy in January last year. After her surgery Debi completed 15 rounds of radiotherapy.
Debi, who is also mum to Josh, 13, and Matthew, six, said Heather helped her through her cancer treatment. She said: “It really helped having my mum to talk to as she’d been through it all before and knew exactly what to say.
“When I told my mum I had breast cancer too she just gave me a huge hug and said: ‘let’s get on with it. Let’s see what the plan is. We will do this. We will fight this together’ and then we giggled because it was a role reversal. I’d spent six months looking after my mum and all of a sudden, I needed my mum to look after me again.
“It was nice to have someone who had been through the same thing too. All the terminology was new to me but my mum knew everything. She was so strong it gave me no choice but to be strong which was really helpful.
“Still now it’s nice to be able to ring my mum and talk about cancer because I think unless you’ve had it you can’t really understand it. Having my mum who has been through the same thing has been a huge help.
“It’s because of her I’ve stayed so strong through it. I can’t thank my mum enough for how strong she has been and what a strong woman she is.”
In March 2018, Debi got a clear scan showing she was cancer free but a year later in March this year she discovered she now has secondary triple negative breast cancer in her sternum and is beginning chemotherapy for the second time.
Last year Debi took part in Race for Life dressed as Wonder Woman and did Pretty Muddy and she is looking forward to doing it again. Heather added: “Our experiences mean we understand all too clearly why Cancer Research UK’s work is so important. We are so excited to take part in Race for Life and join such a formidable force of supporters who are so motivated to make a difference.”
To enter visit www.raceforelife.org or call 0300 123 0770
Video by Cancer Research UK