Saturday, 24 December 2016

The Christie has helped me to make some wonderful memories this year - Suzanne England

Suzanne England
I was very honoured to be asked to speak to over 700 Christie supporters and fundraisers at the annual Christmas concert on 13th December. I want to thank The Christie for inviting me. 

I had been asked to share my experiences as a patient and to reflect on 2016, having raised a significant amount for The Christie during the year.

It was a beautiful Christmassy and uplifting night in the atmospheric Manchester Cathedral. It certainly is the most stunning building I have ever seen. 

The children's choirs were fabulous, sang their hearts out and did their families proud. Jenny Powell, of Wheel of Fortune fame, brought some real humour to the event. The professional singers and musicians were full of festive spirit. My twins were thrilled to hear Natalie McGrath again after she performed at a family wedding earlier this year. Alexander "Buble" Stewart even sang my name in his fantastic version of Feeling Good. Lucky me!

I am so happy that I managed to hold it together to deliver my speech, but having a huge hug from my twins as I came off stage nearly tipped me over the edge!!!! 

As did a little girl in the choir on the front row. She gave me a double thumbs up and the biggest smile ever (toothless just like my twins) whilst dancing around in her reindeer antlers and mini Santa hat headgear! I shed a little happy tear and felt so thankful to have shared that night with everyone there.

I was extremely touched to hear from so many of the audience that my words had given them hope to keep up the fight against cancer, and that it also inspired many to go out and play their part in raising money for The Christie, our truly world class hospital. 

If you weren't at the concert here is my story.........

2016 for me has been about making memories. It’s been about making the most of every moment but also fundraising for The Christie.

With my beautiful twin daughters Evie and Ellie and my husband Rick, we have made memory boxes, planted cherry trees for the children and visited Disneyland together. With even more exciting Christmassy things lined up in the following weeks. 

Being at the cathedral to say thank you to The Christie will be one of the biggest memories of all. That’s why my husband, twins, family and friends all came along to remember how far we have come together, forever.

Thanks to The Christie I am 5 years free of cancer this year!

I truly believe that without The Christie I would not be alive today. They saved my life many times over. For this I will be forever thankful.

Seven years ago, when I was pregnant with my twin girls, they both kicked hard at the same time and broke my ribs. That was how I discovered I had lymphoma! They are my guardian angels!

Evie and Ellie were christened on Easter Day 2010, days before my chemotherapy started.
With Hodgkins lymphoma there is a good chance of survival and this helped me and my family stay positive, looking forward to the twin’s first birthday.

But my lymphoma was aggressive. Six month’s of chemo didn’t work. I was offered intensive salvage chemo as an inpatient at The Christie, hoping this would give me long enough to hear Evie and Ellie speak their first words.

Thankfully, I responded to the treatment and was then offered a stem cell transplant, a high risk option that would potentially give me full remission.

So I spent two months in a germ free bubble on the Haematology and Transplant Unit - the darkest time I have ever experienced.

Following transplant the risk of relapse was extremely high. Luckily I qualified for a clinical trial of Brentuximab Vedotin – now licensed it is being described as the new lymphoma wonder drug. And it worked wonders for me!

For 6 years, I’ve been a patient at The Christie and have also visited most other hospitals locally. The Christie is by far the most outstanding, caring, compassionate, professional hospital. It truly is world class.

Every single member of The Christie team is talented and committed to their patients. It makes being there such a positive experience, even if you have cancer.

The Phlebotomists, Professors, Porters and Physios.

The Consultants, Care assistants, Cleaners, Chefs and Counsellors.

The Registrars, Receptionists and Radiographers.

Not forgetting the amazing Nurses, Students and Volunteers.

And a special mention for Christie bear who is my twin girls’ favourite!

All have brightened my days and helped me maintain a positive outlook.

It goes without saying of course that my lymphoma team are the best, but I’m biased!
Life after cancer is hard but it is priceless. Every second counts.

I’ve had a lot of counselling through Professor Radford’s fantastic team, and am now more able to process what has happened and how it has affected me. It’s helped me to come to terms with my “after cancer identity”, talk to friends and family about my experience and find the right words to thank the people who helped me.

Being able to speak at the Christmas concert and to say thank you to The Christie was a massive milestone for me.

Five years ago, my brother Paul and sister-in-law Grace raised £2,600 for The Christie, running the Manchester 10K! I thought this was amazing!

Five years on, 5 years cancer free, I was inspired to fundraise for The Christie aiming to raise £5,000. I’m no runner but do know how to throw a jolly good party.

I spent 6 months gathering prizes and auction items from local businesses, retailers and influential friends. 

So in July 2016 we held a massive garden party. Friends and family bought tickets, enjoyed a hog roast and bubbly, bid in the auction, danced and won prizes galore. We smashed our target of £5,000, achieving over £20,000. What a memory to have for all involved.

Not only can I now say “I did it for The Christie”, but the Lymphoma department gets funds for vital research to beat cancer sooner.

For the hospital every penny counts. Every ticket and every raffle ticket sold counts. So dig deep! I want to thank everyone who attended the Christmas concert as them just being there made a big difference.

Since having cancer, I now urge everyone to go out and live your life to the max. Enjoy every second and raise money for our world class hospital “The Christie”.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Monday, 19 December 2016

The ‘I did it for The Christie’ sporting reception was very poignant with so many heart warming stories - Natalie Dawes

Natalie Dawes, Christie patient and fundraiser

Natalie Dawes
Earlier this month, I was very honoured to be asked to speak to a group of around 70 fundraisers at an ‘I did it for The Christie’ reception for people who had taken part in sporting events during 2016 to support The Christie charity. 

The people in the room, together with thousands of others who took part in sporting events this year, had between them raised nearly £2m for this wonderful charity.

It was a very poignant and emotional night, with so many wonderful heart-warming stories of people doing amazing things to support cancer patients at The Christie, many of them patients themselves or former patients! It was a truly inspiring evening and left me more determined than ever to support this special cause.

I particularly enjoyed watching a special video showing many of these amazing fundraisers explaining why they “did it for the Christie”. 

It also meant so much to me to be asked to speak to at this event.

I was there because back in October 2016, I walked the Night of Neon for The Christie, almost exactly a year to the day since I had discovered a small breast lump.

I thought I'd better get it checked out, but having had a couple of breast cysts in the past, I was in complete shock as it dawned on me this lump might be much more serious.

My life changed forever on 15 December 2015 when I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at the age of 36. I'm still not really able to put into words how it felt to be given the news. There was no family history of breast cancer so it came completely out of the blue for us. 

Needless to say, Christmas was one to forget. My carefully laid plans for 2016 went out of the window. This was the year my husband and I were hoping to start our longed for family and my career as a solicitor was going from strength to strength. Now I had to face the biggest challenge yet.

Everything moved very quickly and thankfully I didn't really have time to stop and dwell on what had happened. I had to get going with treatment straight away. I elected for neo adjuvant treatment. The chemotherapy was done before surgery, so they could see if the tumour responded. The Christie was quick to get the chemotherapy underway. Despite only living a mile away from the Withington hospital, I walked into it for the very first time in my life during the first week of January. Happy new year.....

The chemo scheduler was brilliant. He arranged treatment on Fridays to fit in with my husband's work, so my husband could always come with me. My chemo ran until May 2016. These were the hardest six months of my life. Absolutely nothing can prepare you for the physical and mental challenge. Of course as I went through each treatment I became weaker and weaker, but I also knew after each session that I was one step closer to finishing it. I got a lot of satisfaction from ticking off each week on my blue appointment card. 

For me, the loss of hair was a big deal. I had an incredibly thick long mane of blonde hair before chemo, it had been this way since I was a child and it was my identity. Vanity got in the way and I decided, with the very patient help of the chemo nurses to give the cold cap treatment a go. The additional hours on the chemo ward and the agony of a freezing cold head was definitely worth it to save about 50% of my hair. It worked so well I was able to avoid wearing a wig by mastering the art of a sweep over.  It wasn't until my missing hair grew back though that I truly accepted I was not a natural blonde.

I became increasingly anxious during chemo as my veins suffered greatly and I found the whole experience of even stepping foot in The Christie extremely difficult. I was given a lot of support by an oncologist psychology nurse called Jo. One of the main things that got me through each chemo session was the hypnocalm sessions provided by the amazing complementary therapist Salma. She would visit me on the chemo ward, calm me down, massage my feet and take me on a journey to my safe place away from the stresses of treatment. I rang the end of treatment bell as hard as I possibly could after completing my last session. It was an emotional day.

Whilst I didn't have much love for chemotherapy at the time, I look back at it now and am so thankful for those drugs. They worked their magic and to my relief the tumour greatly reduced. I had a lumpectomy and lymph node biopsy in June 2016 under the care of Wythenshawe Hospital. The surgery went well and I was so happy to be told there was no evidence that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes or surrounding blood tissue.

I was back at The Christie in July to start my 20 sessions of radiotherapy and I finally completed the treatment on 11th August 2016 when I found another bell to ring! 

I was in a much better place by then mentally, and I found coming in for radiotherapy to be very comforting, in fact I felt a bit lost when it finished, as if I was on my own then. 

It was during those daily trips to radiotherapy that I would walk past the big neon pink banner raising awareness of the Night of Neon walk. When I saw the date was the end of October I thought to myself, I'm going to make sure I am fit enough to do that walk. It fell around the one year anniversary of finding the lump so it was a significant date for me. 

Signing up for the Night of Neon pushed my rehabilitation forward and gave me something positive to focus on. It definitely helped my psychological recovery as I spent time "in training" walking around Didsbury with my dog Larry. 

I have to say that when I initially started treatment I was completely taken aback and saddened by how many patients there were waiting for treatment at the Oak Road Treatment Centre. But as time went by I started to think about it in a more positive way, realising that it was so busy because of the amazing work the researchers are doing to keep people alive, not only to treat but also to cure. That's why I felt it was so important to give something back to The Christie and was one of my main reasons for fundraising.

I also wanted do something to thank and repay all The Christie staff who treated me along the way. From the hard working chemo nurses to the calming complementary therapists, psychologists, consultants, wonderful radiographers and thoughtful schedulers, they all made a difference to me.

Thanks to my lovely family and friends (and the power of Facebook) I managed to smash my £250 target and raised over £2,175. I was completely overwhelmed! And of course I was very emotional when I crossed the finish line. 

I'm so pleased I took part with family and friends, it was a brilliant event. If someone had told me in May when I finished chemo that I'd be capable of walking 10k on a cold night in October I would have either laughed or cried depending upon the mood I was in!

I am incredibly lucky to live in Didsbury, so near to The Christie, which definitely made the treatment more manageable and I'm very grateful for that. Before my diagnosis I must have driven past the hospital thousands of times without really giving the place a second thought. Now I'm back in work and whenever I drive past The Christie on my daily commute, I feel a real sense of gratitude that hopefully this groundbreaking place on my doorstep has saved my life.

Thanks to Walk the Walk for its support in providing the cold cap scalp cooling equipment and also for its grant to support hypnocalm sessions for Christie patients like Natalie.

Please visit to find out what you can do to support The Christie in 2017.

Monday, 12 December 2016

I think my mum would be incredibly proud of what we have achieved in her memory - Amanda Hargreaves

Amanda Hargreaves, Christie fundraiser

Amanda Hargreaves
As The Christie launches a vibrant new fundraising campaign – ‘I did it for The Christie’, I want to share my story with you so you can understand the reasons why I decided to become a corporate fundraiser for The Christie.

At aged nine, I suffered the most traumatic of losses. My mum, Wendy, at the young age of just 34 (two years younger than I am today) sadly lost her long and courageous battle with cancer. My mum was a true fighter. She suffered years of pain and treatments, one of which was the amputation of her leg, solely to live to see me grow up.   

I miss my mum every single day but never more so than at special times. Nothing can prepare you for the sadness you feel when you go and try on a wedding dress and your mum isn’t there or when she isn’t there to share in the most important day of your life. 

Nobody tells you how hard it will be when you get your dream job and you can’t pick up the phone to tell her or when you’re not feeling well and you just want your mum. Although nobody can ever prepare you for such loss, they can help! And that’s what The Christie did for me – they helped and they made things easier.

I am sorry if the start of my story is sad, brings a tear to your eye and a lump to your throat but unfortunately the fact is that cancer doesn’t always have a happy ending. However, rather than dwell on the sadness and the pain I have had because of cancer, I wanted to share some of the positives.  

Without The Christie and its wonderful staff, my mum might have lost her life much sooner. They supported our family which is one of the most important things. I mean really how do you break that news to your family that you aren’t going to beat this disease!? Her cancer was never hidden from me and I was informed of every decision that was made, and even though I perhaps didn’t really understand what was happening, the hospital helped my family explain things to me. They helped mum find a wig when her hair fell out, recommended holistic therapists who would home visit her to help ease her severe pain, and were just there for her and my Dad when they needed someone outside our family unit and circle of friends.

I spent lots of time at The Christie with my Mum and as I grew older I wondered how I could give something back. When the idea of setting up the Manchester PA Network came about, my fellow co-founder and friend Mel and I decided that we should use the network to raise money for The Christie.  

We decided to hold events that our guests could buy tickets for and the money raised would go to The Christie – a great idea but how would we set this network up and get people interested in joining? It wasn’t as easy as we thought. We launched in July 2011 with 50 PAs from various Manchester businesses. We had a raffle and raised a good amount for the charity, but it wasn’t enough, we had to do more!

We became corporate fundraisers and heard about the tree of hope, a beautiful bronze tree in the garden of the hospital, where you could have a leaf with the name of a loved one placed in return for a £15,000 donation. That was when we decided £15,000 would be our first target, and it didn’t take us as long as we thought to get our first leaf with my mum’s name on it. Since then we have raised enough to have a second, a third and a fourth leaf with the name of a loved one on it.

Holly Moore and Amanda Hargreaves from Manchester PA Network 
How did we raise money? We did event after event, each time raising money with raffles and ticket sales. Every year we have a Manchester PA Network team in the Manchester 10K and I have abseiled off Old Trafford with my husband. We encourage our members to take up personal challenges and get involved.

This year was the fifth year of the Manchester PA Network. We now have over 600 members and to date we have raised more than £65,000. We recently set ourselves the challenge to raise £100,000 by the year 2020.  

Through our fundraising we have helped raise awareness of the wonderful work The Christie does. We have shared patient experiences and heard from the clinicians and the fundraising team who all work so hard for the hospital. I am no longer ‘Amanda who lost her Mum to cancer’ I am now ‘Amanda Hargreaves, corporate fundraiser and co-founder of the Manchester PA Network’ who is incredibly proud each day not only of the amount of money I have helped to raise, but also the awareness I have helped to raise about this wonderful hospital and charity.  

I hope that one day there will be a world without cancer but, until that day, I will keep going, so that other little girls don’t lose their precious mummies.

So you see a positive did come out of such a great loss, and whilst sometimes I visit the hospital and feel very sad, there are more times I go there and think ‘wow, look at what I have contributed to’. I think my mum would be incredibly proud of what we have achieved in her memory and we will carry on raising money and awareness to fight this disease. 

If you have been inspired to support The Christie after reading Amanda’s story please visit 

Monday, 5 December 2016

Thank you for the Music - Mike Booth

Mike Booth

Mike Booth, patient and recent recruit to the Rhythm of Life Choir

Like many others, I have faced the emotional tsunami of a cancer diagnosis and apprehensively entered the sliding doors of The Christie some three years ago.

I had given to cancer research charities for years, but never dreamed it might benefit me. No, that was for my parents, older relatives maybe. No, that was for my parents, older relatives maybe.  But after a protracted drugs trial and the excellent support of the team at The Christie I am pleased to say what felt like a death sentence has been commuted to a suspended sentence, still hanging over me, but not affecting my daily life in the same way.

I, like many, have been through blood tests, filled urine containers, had spinal samples, MRI scans, medications, acupuncture, mindfulness and much hanging around with some apprehension waiting for test results.  All highly efficient and helpful - no-one needs to tell us that The Christie is outstanding.

But it is only in the last couple of months that I have found the best therapy The Christie has to offer. 

When my friend Anna asked me along to the Rhythm of Life Choir I wasn’t sure what to expect, but within minutes I was hooked on this new ‘musotherapy’.  An hour and a half getting an infusion of adrenaline, endorphins and positive thinking without any needle in my hand, tubes, blood pressure checks or beeping machines.  And no side effects!  No headaches, nausea, trembling or sleeplessness. What could be better?

Carol, our choir leader, has such energy and enthusiasm that she has taken a group of (dare I say it) average singers and made us sound, well, quite good! She bounces us through a great repertoire of uplifting world music chants, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, religious songs and now even Carol’s Christmas – I mean Christmas carols - all in three part harmony.  

And harmony is what it is all about.  We are a disparate group of people whose lives have been affected by cancer, whether as patients, relatives or staff at The Christie.  We are all ages, from 13 to 85, from all backgrounds. The choir is mostly women, so male singers are particularly welcome but no singing experience (or particular talent!) is required.  We don’t use music, we just listen and repeat, following Carol’s fantastic conducting giving us the pitch to go for.  And our songs are all pretty short so can be learned quickly and polished over a period of weeks.

Rhythm of Life Choir
Right in the heart of The Christie community is the conservatory, full of light and almost in the garden.  And the beautiful Maggie’s Centre across the road is such a peaceful, bright and hopeful space, full of optimism. It feels closely linked to the sky and nature with the calmness of the surrounding gardens. We can almost feel the ‘rhythm of light’ as we let these lovely spaces flow into our hearts. Bring me little water, Christie, as we find renewed energy and life.

We are not, I hasten to add, a performance choir but we sing for the positive benefits to our minds, souls and bodies. We have now had quite a few bookings though, performing for patients at The Christie, appearing on TV for Gareth Malone’s The Choir – Gareth’s Best in Britain and our latest exciting appearance on BBC Breakfast TV with Naga Munchetty for Cancer Awareness Week recently. That was such an affirming and wonderful morning, full of life, hope, light and warmth and helped us bond as a choir as well as join with the community of support at Maggie’s.

We meet every second Monday evening at 7.30pm in the conservatory off the glass corridor at The Christie and at 1pm every other Monday in the Maggie’s Centre. It would be great to see more people and there is no long term commitment.  If you are interested in joining the choir please contact Ros on 0161 446 3996 or email  It could lead to new harmony in your life!