There’s nothing like a dark sense of humour to lighten the gloom of living with cancer.
And luckily Hilary Lennon of Bideford Green is able to see the funny side, most of the time. But during one dreadful period 10 years ago she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, her husband was dying of mesothelioma (a cancer usually caused by asbestos exposure) and her daughter had also been diagnosed with breast cancer, shortly after giving birth to Hilary’s first grandson.
The secretary and founder member of the Leighton Linslade Cancer Support Group – which recently celebrated its first decade – admits: “That was a difficult period.”
The former teacher was fighting to get anti-cancer drug Herceptin accepted by the NHS while she and fellow cancer patient Jo Badrick – who met through their Macmillan nurse – were united in their desire to start a group that would support people with all kinds of cancers.
Hilary recalls one particular day when neither of them was at their best: “Jo was quite poorly – she was struggling with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma – and I had no hair because I was having chemo.
“It was early in the morning and we were on our way to see a printer when Jo started throwing up outside a pub. Well we started laughing and couldn’t stop. It was just so incredibly funny.”
Sadly Jo didn’t live to see the launch of LLCSG but her spirit lives on.
Hilary says: “More than a third of our members have died but they’re never forgotten. We have a Tree of Life banner and each leaf is embroidered with a name and date, including that of the lady who started it.”
The group has gone from strength to strength. They now have a proper constitution, are involved in fundraising and field a notoriously unsuccessful quiz team called the Chemo Warriors.
Hilary is officially NED (no evidence of disease) but she’s still committed to the group where she’s made so many friends. “We laugh a lot,” she explains. “But we also understand just what each of us is going through with this horrific and unpredictable disease.”
> The LLCSG AGM takes place at 10.20am on Friday April 10 at The Salvation Army Hall, Lammas Walk.