[A] CARLISLE mum who describes herself as a “Chemo graduate” is preparing to take on Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life 5k at Bitts Park this summer and is urging other ladies in Cumbria to join her.
Angela Toole, 50, from Stanwix Carlisle, was diagnosed with breast cancer in May last year and now wants to raise money to fund more treatments for others who get a cancer diagnosis.
The 50-year-old, who has signed up for the 5k event and will speak on stage and start the 10k event, says her coping mechanism straight from the start was to tell people about her diagnosis.
Angela, who helps run the family businesses Lonsdale News and James Street Service Station in Carlisle, said: “When I was diagnosed the first thing I did was went and told everyone and it paid off! A lady in the butchers said she’d not seen me for a while and I said I’d been diagnosed with cancer. The lady in the queue behind me said: “I had that now I’m seven years clear now” so it’s given me extra support right from the start.
“When I was little I still remember people talking about the big ‘C’ or mouthing the word cancer, but by telling everyone I’ve made lots of new friends and come out the other side a lot stronger. I think it’s important to raise awareness and show it’s not all doom & gloom .”
Angela was diagnosed with HER2 positive breast cancer, where cancer cells have large amounts of a molecule called HER2 on their surface, in May last year (2015).
Her diagnosis followed months of going back and forth to the doctors with illnesses from the New Year onwards. After antibiotics failed to make her feel any better her GP sent her for a blood test and a scan. The hospital consultant found bronchiolitis and pneumonia and prescribed medication but later called her at home to say his colleague had noticed something else. Angela returned for a mammogram and biopsy which found cancer on her left breast.
Angela said: “The doctors wanted to tell me all about my treatment but I told them I needed to hear about it one step at a time. So they told me I needed a mastectomy and I said right let’s do that. After that they told me about the chemotherapy and that’s how I coped.”
Angela was treated at Hexham General Hospital with surgery and six rounds of chemotherapy. She is now on a course of Herceptin injections which will run until November and will take Tamoxifen for the next 10 years.
Angela said: “During my chemotherapy I set myself little challenges starting with getting out of bed and vacuuming the living room and then I could enjoy a coffee . I thought “I’m not going to waste this time!” I ended up recovering the dining room chairs too which are now known as the chemo chairs.
“The chemotherapy made me feel very heavy but you have to make yourself get up and keep busy. I organised little lunches with friends for the days I was feeling up to it so I had things to look forward to.
“I tried to have a positive attitude throughout and on my last day of chemotherapy I wore a T-shirt saying “I’m a chemo graduate”!
“When I knew I was having chemo I had my hair shaved off, that way I was in control. I wore trilby hats in different colours they were far more comfortable than a wig
“And now my hair has grown back thicker, dark and curly so better than before!”
Angela also became a regular at her local Cancer Research UK shop in Carlisle and for her 50th birthday in January this year threw a big black tie party at The Andalusian raising £700 for the charity. Her guests donated to Cancer Research UK rather than buying her a present.
Now she wants to raise even more money for the research that has helped save her life.
Angela, who is wife to husband Chris and has son Peter, 25, said: “For me having breast cancer has not been the end of the world.
“My family have been brilliant and just kept everything as normal as they could for me and we carried on as normal which was just what I needed. It meant it wasn’t overwhelming.
“Having cancer has made me realise what is really important & now I have the 3 H’s. Health, Happiness & HAIR.
“Now I want to do my bit to raise money for more research so that more people like me can survive cancer!”
Angela is now doing well and hopes to enjoy a holiday of a lifetime to New Year later this year.
Angela Wilson, Carlisle Race for Life Event Manager, said: “We like to thank Angela for her fantastic support for Cancer Research UK. There’s still space for other ladies to sign up for Race for Life at Bitts Park, Carlisle on Saturday and Sunday July 9 and 10 at Bitts Park.
“Race for Life isn’t about being fit or fast it’s about a group of ladies coming together, having fun and raising money to help beat cancer sooner.
“We have a 5k and a 10k events on Sunday 10 July or for ladies who fancy trying something a little bit different we also have our new Pretty Muddy event – a 5k muddy obstacle course where ladies climb over A-frames and crawl under scramble nets before plunging down a big inflatable slide into a big mud bath! It’s lots of fun for a good cause!”
Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, raises millions of pounds every year to help fund life-saving research.
One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives and 63 people are diagnosed with cancer every week in Cumbria. By getting sponsored to help fund life-saving research, participants will be helping more people survive so they in turn can enjoy more precious moments with their loved ones.
For more information and to sign up, visit raceforlife.org