Elizabeth (left) with fellow Ambassadors Dorcas Adeoye and Opeyemi Akindele
In the second of a series of guest posts from our Cancer Campaigns Ambassadors, Elizabeth Bailey shares her personal story and why she campaigns for the Government to improve access to innovative radiotherapy.
February 2015 will mark five years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Mine has been a challenging, but happy story. A few months ago a CT scan showed that, as I pass my landmark 50th birthday, I have very likely survived my life-altering brush with the ‘Big C’.
Turning a negative into a positive
So what does this really mean? Two happy little daughters get to keep their Mum; I’ve made many new friends, along with massive personal and career changes, and been involved with huge amounts of political action.
Combine this with what I see as a winning association with one of the world’s number one charities, and what was once terror has been turned in to triumph.
My big wish now is that this happy ending can happen for many other people too, which is why I’m so passionate about my role as a voluntary Cancer Campaigns Ambassador.
Experts suggest radiotherapy contributes to 4 in 10 cases where cancer is cured. That’s why I want to make sure that the treatments that helped me through, like radiotherapy, are easily accessible to all cancer patients who need them.
On my five year journey, I have spoken to many people touched by cancer, either themselves or relatives.
Not all have had such a happy experience as I have. An old college friend of mine opened her heart to me while I was being treated. Her beloved mum had been diagnosed with a brain tumour, but was unable to get access to radiotherapy treatment that could have extended her life.
We must stop things like this happening.
What do I have to say about radiotherapy? Don’t be scared, it’s not like something out of a 70s cold war film. It’s very sophisticated nowadays, and getting more so. We have wonderful centres, like the pioneering Mount Vernon Hospital where I was treated.
In 2011, I helped Cancer Research UK campaign to improve access to radiotherapy, as part of our Voice for Radiotherapy campaign. As a result, we won a £23million investment from the Government to give more patients access to targeted radiotherapy treatments in England (every year at least 6,000 more patients now have access).
But there’s still more that needs to be done to help patients. That’s why I’m calling for all election candidates, ahead of the General Election in May, to join the fight to Cross Cancer Out. We need a long-term strategy to make innovative radiotherapy treatments available to all patients who would benefit,as I have done.
A badge of achievement
What do I have to show for my radiation treatment physically? A reconstructed left breast, along the top of which runs a narrow, tanned mark. Not everyone will get this sort of mark; it depends on your treatment and your skin type.
Personally, I like to show off (the decent bits of) my battle scar on social media. It’s like a badge of achievement. In a v-neck jumper it’s even a talking point – and, importantly, I get to talk to people about how radiotherapy helped save my life, and how it must be allowed to do the same for many others.
Elizabeth is a Cancer Research UK Campaigns Ambassador