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Helen at one of her fundraising tea parties

You could call me one of the lucky ones - diagnosed with Hilar CC and still here nearly 7 years later. I was lucky to be diagnosed early, at least by CC standards, and was deemed suitable to have surgery. This was a very significant surgery, but I recovered well and was able to return to my work as a GP Practice Manager. I was even luckier to have nearly 5 years clear. In 2015, my last planned routine CT scan found a recurrence. I had chemotherapy and then some very clever surgery by my amazing surgical team, who said they would "see what they could do" if I "was willing to take the chance". Of course I was willing -the only thing I wasn't willing to do was give up. The surgery went very well and my most recent review scan was all clear. Of course, like all cancer patients, I do tend to both dread the scans (it might be back!) and love them (it might be clear!).

I have now retired and am enjoying a range of new challenges. My husband and I have taken up lawn bowls and enjoy getting involved in our club. We have also joined the U3A, and I have already found myself offering to set up a new interest group to study the weather. An important part of my retirement is having time to give to things that matter to me. My association with AMMF over the last 6 years made me realise how important it is to have people affected by cancer involved in charities funding cancer research. I am very fortunate to be chosen to take part in several significant patient involvement projects with CRUK. This is giving me the opportunity to give them the benefit of my experience as a cancer patient, hopefully in a way that will help others in the future. And whilst I can't specifically "bang the drum" for CC, I do feel that as a person affected by a rare cancer I can on occasion bring some balance.

I have come to realise that there isn't a magic point at which you don't have cancer any more. I will always have it, but it is just a question of how much I let it rule my life. I'm trying hard to make myself take more chances, because I can and the only person who can stop me is me. I'm never going to be skydiving or anything rash like that, but I've recently had part of my hair dyed pink! I have a great family round me and these pictures remind me how lucky I am to have them - I would not have been at my daughter's wedding if things had gone differently and I celebrate this achievement (and others) often.

Helen Tanner


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