Life is great at 50!

I really felt the need to update everyone who has supported me: my lovely family, friends and supporters. You gave me life and hope, by kindly making donations and supporting events. What seemed impossible suddenly became possible: the substantial funding required for my proven breakthrough treatment.

I was worn out by my struggle and my reserves were low. My options were dwindling fast. The chemotherapy regime was no longer effective, meaning my spreading tumours were again growing. It was time to make the hardest decision of my life. Desperately wanting to stay alive for my wonderful son Callum, now twelve years old. But sick of the fortnightly chemotherapy, wiping me out and imprisoning me on the sofa. Alive, but not part of life. When I sat with my fantastic oncologist to discuss the need to stop my chemotherapy I could barely control my emotions. Despite working for access to immunotherapy for over two years, the prospect of ending my chemotherapy frightened me to the core of my being. Especially the need for a six week break from the chemo before being allowed to start the new treatment. Knowing my cancer was already growing. The crushing fear also made me worry that I might die before the immunotherapy could start working. Falling at the last hurdle. Cruelly denied this last chance of continuing to be a mum, wife, sister, daughter and friend.

Swallowing false pride and overcoming fear of failure (thanks to reassurances from friends), Jim and I launched the fundraising campaign in September 2017. Initially, I doubted whether I was worthy of the support required. I had never asked for financial support from anyone my whole life. My first paid work was as a 12 year old kennel maid and I have always liked working hard and paying my own way. It made asking people for money so hard. We kept stalling the fundraising launch as I worked through this and convinced myself that it was the right thing to do. I am so grateful we did. How could we have ever imagined such a great response. As each of the many donations were made, the total grew rapidly beyond my wildest dreams.

Such fantastic support meant that, on the 1st December 2017, I was able to have my first dose of immunotherapy. Luckily in my local hospital. Starting the treatment brought with it a complete mix of emotions: fear, hope, joy, relief and gratitude. A truly life changing step.

Your contributions have amounted so far to in excess of £80,000! And more enjoyable events are planned, arranged by a tireless group of supporters. I would love to list a few of my many supporters here, but who do I pick out of the many? All of the kindnesses have meant so much to me and my family.

How time flies! I have already had five doses of immunotherapy, with thankfully no side effects so far. I last had chemotherapy in November and my body has recovered much more quickly than I could have ever hoped for. The clinical team will be able to make a reasonable judgement about whether the immunotherapy is working for me in the summer. A summer I am looking forward like no other.

I feel so well since stopping the chemotherapy. I am living a good and full life, much fitter, mentally unburdened and sleeping well. Callum recently shared his feeling at bedtime about my current health: “I’ve got my mum back”. As I hugged him with tears streaming down my face, I knew at that moment that I’d totally made the right decision. Swallowing my false pride had enabled me to ask others for support when I needed it most. Winning the one chance I had at a longer life with him. My giant leap of faith has already paid off, no matter what the future holds. I have immediately shared better days with Callum and we know we are truly surrounded by love. I am also really believing that I will be there to nurture Callum and see him grow into a fine young man. What can be more important? What greater gift? I feel blessed. I also desperately want to grow old with Jim. I wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for him. He’s tirelessly researched a credible way through this unforgiving, cruel disease. By my side.

I am so fortunte to have just celebrated my 50th birthday! A day I never thought I would see. Family and friends made sure that the milestone was an even happier one, surrounded by love, the most precious gift of all.
Hope is very much alive! I want to again sincerely thank all you lovely, generous, caring people for supporting me. Together with the core group who have tirelessly organised events, made things, collected things, braved the cold, spread the word and so on.

I want to stay alive not only for Jim, Callum, my family and friends. I also want the opportunity to continue giving back, ‘paying forward’ and building on my previous work. As well as directly advising some patients and starting to write a guide on fundraising, I am updating my website, www.cure4hayley.com, to be of greater value to others. I also believe that my experience of immunotherapy will help in advancing the understanding of this life giving, kinder treatment.

I hope that, in supporting my fundraising, you are very proud of helping make this happen. You have made a massive difference to my family and hopefully in the longer term to other families too. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

To Life, Love, Laughter and Friendship!
Hayley
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