Wednesday, 22 March 2017

I am bursting with pride that The Christie offered me a golden bond place for The London Marathon - Louise Wilce

Louise Wilce, Christie fundraiser

Louise Wilce (right) running with niece Violet and son Alexander
The Christie has been there for my family time and time again over the last 20 years or so…our story goes like this. Within my family are carriers of the BRCA1 gene. Female carriers have a greatly increased lifetime risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and male carriers have an increased risk of prostate cancer. 

In recent years there has been much publicity regarding this gene, with celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Christina Applegate announcing they too carried this gene and would undergo preventative surgery under the eyes of the world.

In my family, we also do what we can to fight, to keep going, and not let this gene affect the way we live our lives. My female relatives with a positive BRCA1 result have had preventative surgery i.e. double mastectomies and removal of ovaries. I include myself in this, I had a double mastectomy and reconstruction in 2011, aged 29, and I plan to have my oophorectomy and hysterectomy in June 2017, not long after completing the London Marathon. 

The Christie has been there for my family in terms of counselling, information, recovery and, for those who weren’t so lucky to catch it in time, treatment and palliative care. Closest to my heart is my father, Geoff Cowey, who passed away to bile duct cancer in October 2014.

My dad was just 59 when he died. He had chemotherapy and follow up treatment at The Christie, but sadly his cancer was very advanced and complicated. I went with him to a lot of his appointments. I was terrified I would see him in pain, scared and hooked up to drips on a bleak hospital ward. It wasn’t like that at all. It was comfortable, the staff were friendly, and we ended up having a right laugh sometimes. There was a kind of ‘blitz spirit’ amongst patients. Maybe this was because everybody was truly in it together, maybe it was because of the unique spirit of Manchester and the other Mancunians also having treatment. But I really believe it is because The Christie is a very, very special place.

Louise's dad Geoff
After losing dad I broke down and was eventually diagnosed with postnatal depression (my son was 18 months old at this point) and post traumatic stress disorder. It felt inescapable. My dad was a lovely man and my very best friend. How on earth could I go on without him? I trudged through each day. I knew my tiny son and husband needed me. I knew something needed to change. I needed a focus, something to break the cycle of work, caring for my son, crying, drinking…

I don’t know what changed but one evening  I thought ‘enough is enough’. I wanted to feel better and start living again. I also felt a huge desire to give something back to the people who had helped my dad and my family so much during those dark times. So….I went online and entered The Great Manchester Run, a 10k race in my hometown of Manchester, a place which we love and reminds me of my dad on every corner and every street.

So fast forward from that first run one freezing January evening and, six months after losing dad, myself and most of my family, including dad’s two brothers and two sisters and a handful of cousins, ran our first 10k, the Great Manchester Run 2015, both in his memory and for The Christie. We were so pleased that something positive could come from something so tragic.

I don’t remember waking up one day and suddenly feeling ok, but gradually I rediscovered what it felt like to be happy again. You know when you have a really, really good run where your heart sings and everything around you is bursting with colour and light? Every single run is like that for me. Of course, I’ve had the odd injury and frustrating times, but I am so grateful for what running has given me that I can’t ever see myself giving up.

Running hasn’t just been my saviour. It’s saved my family too. Most of us are still running and I plan to keep it going with my son also. Alexander ran the Mini Great Manchester Run, aged three, in memory of his Grandi in 2016 and now goes to a local kids run free club - he wants shiny medals like his mummy has! My cousin Emily ran the 2016 London Marathon for the same fantastic cause. I went to watch her race in London and as I saw her with her medal and my dad’s name on her back I thought, ‘I have got to do this too.” 

So my next goal? Well, I didn’t get a ballot place for London, so am bursting with pride and excitement that The Christie offered me one of their 2017 golden bond places, so I am well into my training plan at the minute and loving it. The Christie is such an amazing place and I will always, always support them and raise funds for them, for the rest of my life. We’ve raised almost £6,000 in my dad’s memory so far and our plan is to just keep going. Keep running. 

When someone you love receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, your world crumbles and you very quickly learn to live in the moment, because you have no control over your future. What the team at The Christie taught us was that, whilst tomorrow could not be guaranteed, today could at least be ok.

Monday, 6 March 2017

I never dreamt I would be working on the pioneering proton beam therapy project - Emma Hanrahan

Emma Hanrahan, assistant quantity surveyor for Interserve Construction delivering The Christie’s proton beam therapy centre

Emma Hanrahan
Interserve is working with The Christie to bring the UK's first high energy proton beam therapy service to Manchester. The state of the art five storey building will provide three treatment gantries, a research room, a patient reception, consultation rooms and public space.

As an assistant quantity surveyor I am responsible for the management, recording and reporting of the financial movement of elements of the construction project, as well as managing the subcontractors’ commercial progress on site.

After holding a long term job in the printing industry I decided that I wanted to retrain to do something I was really interested in and that maximised my strengths. I enrolled on a quantity surveying degree at Salford University in 2011 and secured my first position as a trainee quantity surveyor with Interserve two years later before graduating in 2015.

The construction industry starts early so I aim to get to site at 7.30am and leave at around 5pm. However, I must be reactive to issues when they arise, so these hours can stretch either end when necessary. I always start my day with a hot cup of tea whilst catching up on emails. My main role is to ensure that the project costs are being monitored correctly and cash flow is being met throughout the construction phase of a project. I’m also involved with the management of subcontractors working on the project, ensuring that they deliver to the right standard and are paid the correct amount for the work they complete. 

The best thing about my job is getting to work with great people and every single day being completely different and challenging. I enjoy seeing the progression of a site from start to finish and being able to say I helped to build that!

The highlight of the project for me to date was looking out of my site accommodation window to see Lucas, a five year old cancer patient, being presented with a gift of a John Deere toy tractor. It really struck me then why we’re doing this, it’s not just any other project; we’re delivering something that will make a difference!

Alongside my day job I’m involved with  fundraising for The Christie charity. Being onsite at The Christie I see the amazing care and treatment provided by the dedicated staff and I hope that our fundraising will help to create awareness and contribute to enabling this world class treatment to continue. I’m proud to say that in 2016 Interserve raised over £25,000 for the charity with plenty more planned for 2017, including a repeat of the highly successful ‘Come Dine with Me’ and our ‘legendary’ Wigan Race Night, as well as some new innovative fundraising initiatives including a stay in a haunted house and a motor bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats!

I never dreamt I would be working on the pioneering proton beam therapy project, which is scheduled to complete on time and within budget.  It’s such an inspirational place to work and I’m proud to be part of the team delivering a facility that will make such a huge difference to patient’s quality of life.

To learn more about careers in the construction industry and to visit our proton beam therapy site book your place on a tour at the end of this month at