A Shropshire cancer survivor, whose successful treatment enabled her to see her son get married in Mexico, is backing a Cancer Research UK campaign to help give hope to future generations.
When Donna Jones, from Telford, heard the words ‘you have cancer’, her life changed in ways that she could never have imagined. The busy HR manager went from organising a hectic work schedule to arranging her life around surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy sessions, after being diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2015.
Now fit and well, the 52-year-old has just returned from her only son’s dream wedding in Mexico – an occasion she feared she would not live to see. Donna owes her life to improved treatments, thanks in part, to the work of Cancer Research UK.
Donna was treated with Herceptin, a breast cancer drug the charity helped to develop. Cancer Research UK led clinical trials to show Herceptin improves survival. Now this is the gold standard of care for this type of breast cancer, helping more women survive the disease.
That’s why Donna is urging people across Shropshire to give regularly to Cancer Research UK to help fund long term research projects that could drive new breakthroughs.
Life-saving cancer treatments are made by months and months of trialling, testing and learning. But monthly progress in research needs monthly donations.
Donna was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2015 after finding a lump on her right breast. As she had suffered numerous cysts in her breasts before, she wasn’t too worried and went to her appointment alone.
Donna said: “I must have been through the same process at least eight times before – where the consultant looks at the lump then comes back into the room and tells me it’s just a cyst. But this time he came back in with a nurse and they told me it was a solid lump and needed to be sent off for a biopsy. It was a bit of a shock.”
Two weeks later Donna went back for her results and was told she had breast cancer that was Her2 and ER positive. It had also spread to her lymphatic and vascular system.
After a lumpectomy to remove the tumour, Donna was treated with chemotherapy which started on 8 September – her 45th birthday. She had three rounds of FEC-T chemotherapy, followed by a year of the drug Herceptin, which Cancer Research UK helped develop.
Donna’s treatment finished in March 2016 after she completed a course of radiotherapy. Radiotherapy can play an important role in preventing breast cancer coming back after surgery. Cancer Research UK funded a large clinical trial in the 1970s and supporting a long-term follow-up study in the 1980s, which confirmed these benefits and led to other recommendations on timing and dose to help reduce side effects of treatments.
Donna added: “I told my husband all the way through that I only wanted two things: I wanted to see my 50th birthday and I wanted to live long enough to see my son Jordan get married. He was only 20 when I was diagnosed and he is my world, so I was determined to be there for him.
“I was very positive throughout my treatment. I carried on working whenever I could and shaved my hair off when it started falling out. But treatment is a kind of comfort blanket – you feel safe knowing the cancer is being dealt with.
“When it was all over, I hit a brick wall. I didn’t know how to cope and my positivity seemed to evaporate. I decided to get a personal trainer to get me back on track. We did running, boxing, and high intensity training. My son also suggested getting a dog, so I got a Bassett hound called Honey from the Dogs Trust in Shrewsbury. She is gorgeous and she got me out of bed on the mornings I didn’t feel like getting up.”
Now cancer-free and enjoying a normal life, Donna has devoted a lot of time to fundraising for cancer charities since her diagnosis, including Cancer Research UK.
By sharing her story, Donna hopes to inspire others to play a part in the fight against the disease. With around 33,300 people diagnosed with cancer every year in Shropshire and the West Midlands, Donna’s message is clear – to save lives tomorrow, Cancer Research UK needs the public’s support today.
Donna said: “Research into better treatments has given me more precious time with my loved ones. I’ve just had the most amazing time in Mexico, watching my son Jordan get married to his sweetheart, Alex – a moment I feared I would not see. But, special moments like these would not be possible without the dedication of scientists who are relentlessly striving towards new discoveries and milestones month after month. This vital work needs our support.”
She continued: “If I had been diagnosed with cancer ten or 20 years ago, the outcome might not have been the same for me and that’s down to research.
“By making a monthly donation to Cancer Research UK, people across Shropshire could help give hope to many more families like mine and invest in long term research that could save lives for generations to come.”
Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, Cancer Research UK was able to spend over £10 million in the West Midlands last year on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.
While 2022 marks the charity’s 20th anniversary, its history dates back to the founding of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in 1902. During this time, its work has led to more than 50 cancer drugs used across the UK – and around the world – from widely used chemotherapies to new-generation precision treatments.
In fact, drugs linked to the charity are used to treat more than 125,000 patients in the UK every year – that’s 3 out of every 4 patients who receive cancer drugs on the NHS.
Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Shropshire, Jane Redman, said:
“One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime,** but all of us can help beat it. As we mark our 20th anniversary, we’re reflecting on how far we’ve come thanks to supporters like Donna. From proving the link between smoking and cancer to laying the foundations for modern radiotherapy, our scientists have been at the forefront of cancer research for 120 years. And we’re not stopping now.
“Monthly donations make a huge difference to advances such as this, because they allow us to plan for the future – and the more we can plan, the more projects we can fund to unlock more of cancer’s secrets. So we hope people will give regularly to the charity, if they can.
“We’re working towards a world where we can all live longer, better lives, free from the fear of cancer. Beating the disease is a long game, but it’s one that – together – we will win.”
To find out more about Cancer Research UK see cruk.org.