Macmillan staff member who fought breast cancer is on charity mission in Leighton Buzzard

'It's OK not be be OK and say I'm knackered and struggling with this. Please ask for help if you need it'

Monday, 18th October 2021, 2:56 pm
Updated Monday, 18th October 2021, 3:19 pm

A brave Leighton Buzzard woman is taking part in Wear it Pink Day for Breast Cancer Now after fighting the disease this year.

Helen Topping, 41, works for Macmillan Cancer Support and was prompted to get her own symptoms checked after taking part in a training day for her new job.

Thankfully, the cancer was caught early, and Helen is now on a mission to encourage people to talk about their experiences and to visit a doctor if they are worried about their health.

Helen Topping at the London Marathon and (right) with her family.

The mum-of-two will be helping out at Wear it Pink Day in Room No9 on October 22, where there will be a cake sale and raffle stall from 9.30am until 12.30pm.

Helen told the LBO: "It's quite ironic really. I worked for social services for 20 years and loved my job. I never thought about leaving.

"Then my friend sent me a link from Macmillan and said 'Wow, this has got your name written all over it!'

"I handed in my notice to start at Macmillan in March and did my cancer awareness training.

A poster for breast cancer symptoms (left) and Helen with her daughter, Molly.

"But I thought, I've got a funny feeling in my boobs which I've had for a few months now..."

Helen's training prompted her to make a doctor's appointment and she was quickly sent for further tests at Milton Keynes Hospital.

The brave mum "played it down" and stayed positive while she waited for the results, knowing that it was best to stay calm and not panic.

Helen said: "I remember saying to a friend on the school run, 'I've got my appointment at the hospital and my life could change tomorrow'.

"When I went it was quite obvious what I was going to get told because a Macmillan nurse came in with me; luckily, it was in the early stages and I had a lumpectomy to remove all the cancer.

"I'd been going through it all in my mind and hadn't had time to piece it all together - they would be removing the cancer but I hadn't even processed that I had got it!"

Helen was diagnosed on April 29 and had surgery on May 18 at Milton Keynes Hospital, before undergoing three weeks of radiotherapy in July.

She described feeling "quite tearful" after her operation as she didn't know whether the cancer had spread or not, but was relieved when the surgeon rang to give her the good news.

Helen has since been on a mission to raise awareness and held a coffee morning for Macmillan at All About Me Fitness gym, Leighton Buzzard, raising £2,400, and also volunteered for its cheer squad at the London Marathon.

She is now proud to be taking part in Wear it Pink Day for care and research charity Breast Cancer Now, along with her friend Fiona Pollard, and Sam Mardlin and Caroline Gates at Room No9.

Residents are encouraged to come along to support the cause or share their experiences in a friendly environment, while businesses can still donate raffle prizes for the charity.

Talking about the importance of sharing your experiences, Helen said: "Me being me, I chatted to people in the [radiotherapy] waiting room. There were people with brain tumours, people with terminal illnesses.

"When I saw someone crying in the waiting room I would go up to them. People were really grateful; one lady was having a really bad day and she was chatting about how she was getting on. She had been through chemo and was on ongoing medication.

"Another lady had a brain tumour and she was very pragmatic. Different people deal with things in different ways."

She added: "It's OK not be be OK and say I'm knackered and struggling with this. Please ask for help if you need it."

Helen is looking forward to her future as a Volunteer Service Coordinator with Macmillan Cancer Support, and wants to thank the charity and colleagues for the support they gave her.

She would also like to say a huge thank you to all her friends and family for their love and support, including husband Darren and children Benji, 14, and Molly, seven, as well as the NHS and Milton Keynes Hospital, whose service she "couldn't fault".

Helen concluded: "I feel that it happened for a reason and working for Macmillan I have found this passion for cancer support, and having had it myself I have this extra passion and empathy.

"Ultimately, one thing you learn is that people say you are not alone, but actually you are alone through it - it's you going through the operations and treatment.

"When something like that hits you, it's about acceptance.

"If you need us, please call Macmillan and talk it through with one of our volunteers."

> To donate a prize for the Breast Cancer Now raffle, please contact Sam at Room No9: 07714 249722.

> Symptoms of breast cancer include:

a new lump or area of thickened tissue in either breast that was not there before

a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts

a discharge of fluid from either of your nipples

a lump or swelling in either of your armpits

a change in the look or feel of your skin, such as puckering or dimpling, a rash or redness

a rash (like eczema), crusting, scaly or itchy skin or redness on or around your nipple

a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast

To find out more about Macmillan Cancer Support, please visit: https://www.macmillan.org.uk/To find out more about Breast Cancer Now, visit: https://breastcancernow.org/