A TELFORD woman who was diagnosed with cancer after visiting the GP with a crick in her neck is pledging to take part in Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life and is inviting everyone to join her at one of Shropshire’s fun events.
This year’s Race for Life in Telford marks two years to the day since journalist Ann Clarkson (53) had a successful operation to remove a tumour from her womb. As she celebrates her own survival she hopes others will follow her lead and join up at raceforlife.org
This year, for the first time, Cancer Research UK is inviting everyone – women, men and children – to join the Race for Life. Events in Shropshire include Pretty Muddy at Weston Park on May 4, and 5k Race for Life events at Telford on June 2 and Shrewsbury on June 23.
Ann, a former journalist who now works in communications for Mensa in Wolverhampton, visited her GP in April 2017 with a badly cricked neck. It was only on the way out of the surgery that she mentioned to the doctor she had been having some post-menopausal bleeding.
“It wasn’t the main reason I went to the doctor - I just mentioned it in passing as I thought it was probably hormonal. If it hadn’t been for that crick in my neck and that chance conversation I wouldn’t have been diagnosed so early,” said Ann. Thankfully, Ann’s GP insisted on checking out the cause of the bleeding and referred her for an ultrasound and hysteroscopy.
It was there that she saw a large grey mass on the ultrasound screen. “It looked like a big, grey mushroom with fronds coming off it. I could pretty much tell from the reaction of the staff that it wasn’t good news, but they had to send it off for analysis before telling me anything definite,” said Ann.
Determined to get her head round her diagnosis before sharing the news with anyone else, Ann went to get the results of the hysteroscopy on her own. It was then she was told she had grade 3 womb cancer that could have spread anywhere in her body.
After a CT scan at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford Ann was told she needed a complete hysterectomy and removal of surrounding lymph nodes. After successful surgery at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton she was had chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the Deanesly Centre to prevent the cancer recurring.
“It was very aggressive treatment and it knocked me for six,” said Ann. “I had four rounds of chemotherapy over the next three months and dealing with the side effects was difficult. People say that the worst thing is the hair loss but it didn’t bother me too much as I’d always had short hair. It was the intense joint pain that really got me down.”
At one point Ann ended up in A&E because the effects of the chemotherapy were so bad. When chemotherapy finished in September she had to have four doses of radiotherapy too.
Ann returned to work at Mensa in October as her hair started to grow back. “Unfortunately, it grew back looking like a 1970s’ Kevin Keegan perm, which was not a look I really aspired to,” joked Ann.
Because there was a family history of cancer Ann had genetic testing but it did not reveal any known mutations. However, knowing that new discoveries are being made all the time, Ann agreed to allow her tissue samples to be used in future research to benefit others.
She said: “My experience means I understand all too clearly why Cancer Research UK’s work is so important. It’s thanks to research that I’m standing here today and can enjoy more special moments with my family and friends. Making my tissue available for research means others – possibly including my own daughters – can benefit from my experience.”
Last year Ann’s two daughters, Ellie (26) and Jennie (19) took part in the Telford Race for Life in celebration of their mum. This year Ann’s partner David Ballinger will join her on the start line at Telford Town Park on Sunday June 2 to celebrate two years since Ann’s cancer was removed.
Ann said: “I’m 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. The event falls on the exact day they told me they’d successfully removed all of my cancer so it is a significant milestone for me.
“I’m so grateful for the treatment that saved my life. That’s why I want to encourage as many people as possible to join the fight and sign up to the Race for Life”
Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is an inspiring series of 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids events which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer by funding crucial research.
Jane Redman, Shropshire spokesperson for Cancer Research UK, said: “We are very grateful to Ann and her family for their support.
“By following their lead, and joining a Race for Life event in Shropshire, people can make a real difference in the fight against cancer.
“Our Race for Life events are fun, colourful, emotional and uplifting. You don’t need to be sporty to take part. You don’t have to train, and you certainly don’t need to compete against anyone else.”
One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer, at some point during their lifetime, but the good news is more people are surviving the disease now than ever before. Cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress.
Jane continued: “Every day, four people are diagnosed with cancer in the West Midlands*. To make a significant difference in the fight against cancer we need to harness as much energy and commitment as possible, and that’s why we need everyone in Shropshire to join.
“We’re urging mums, dads, nans, grandpas, brothers, sisters, friends and workmates to show their support by joining the Race for Life. It’s a perfect example of everyday people doing an extraordinary thing – uniting in a common cause to beat cancer.”
“We encourage our participants to help raise money in what every way they like – there are lots of ideas on the Race for Life website - because this allows Cancer Research UK to fund vital research that saves lives.
This includes clinical trials which give patients in Shropshire access to the latest treatments.”
Cancer Research UK’s life-saving work relies on the public’s support. Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, the charity was able to spend over £10 million last year in the West Midlands on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.
To enter Race for Life today visit raceforelife.org or call 0300 123 0770.