Monday, 21 October 2013

Guest Post - Elizabeth Bailey

Another blog post by one of my wonderful fellow ambassadors, and a real inspiration of mine, for you to enjoy today. Elizabeth is a wonderful lady, full of passion, intelligence and a real zest for life. I am honoured that she has allowed me to share some of her thoughts with you.

Elizabeth Bailey is Cancer Research UK’s Campaigns Ambassador for Luton South and on the Committee of CR UK Luton Relay for Life. Following a brush with breast cancer, she recently gave up a twenty-year Civil Service career and now combines being a postgraduate student with working in her local Public Health Team, and being a mum to two young daughters.  Elizabeth writes on cancer, and being a volunteer:

Over the past week, a family friend has been faced with the possibility that the breast cancer, for which she was successfully treated thirteen years ago, had returned, this time in her bones – secondaries, for which we know there is no cure.

The news stopped me in my tracks. Over time, I had come to the conclusion that the cancer for which I myself was treated three years ago was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  I’ll explain further why thought this, but for now, I’m having to consider that the life enhancing things which have come my way since then may have done so at some considerable cost – and only time will tell.

Early in 2010, I found myself sitting in a rain-drenched hospital car park howling with animal rage because I thought I would not see my little daughters grow up. But chemo, much surgery and radiotherapy have since been and gone.  It is now 2013, and the cancer, fingers crossed, is also gone.  But not the rage.  Cancer, in all its unpleasant incarnations, is now my chosen enemy. 

Everyone should have an enemy, don’t they say – it gives you purpose and direction, something to fight against. It did me. I now devote a good third of my time to helping dismantle this enemy, picking it apart bit by bit, with money, science, politics and the best efforts I can make to weaken it. I hope that even if it is still strong enough to take my friends, or even me, it will be a shadow by the time my daughters have to think about it. It’s in my sightline, and I’m proud to be called obsessive. One of my fellow CRUK Ambassadors, Jan Sheward, once vividly described to me her feeling of controlled rage about cancer.  Right on. I’m cool, calm, and armed with lots of facts and figures. Whoever wants to take me on, good luck.

Don’t misunderstand me - I respect my enemy, and it has given me things.  A whole host of new friends, for one.  Some really exciting, career-enhancing volunteering opportunities for another.  The courage to make a major change. Oh, and something to study for my PhD.  I really can’t complain about all of that. 
But there won’t be any gratitude. On Tuesday last week I went to the House of Commons with my fellow Ambassador Gower Tan, telling Peers and MPs why they should be playing their part in the further crowding-out of tobacco products by supporting an amendment to the Children and Families Bill.  This would enforce standardised cigarette packaging in shops where children are able to see those products. Yes, that’s right. Let’s not mess about here, the moral argument is won.  Peer-reviewed evidence proves that pack marketing attracts children. So we need to stop a toxic, addictive product, and the number one preventable cause of cancer, being dressed up in a completely misleading way. The game is over.  It’s now about taking timely action to save real people’s lives, and I will be making this very clear indeed.

We will win on this point.  It is not matter of if, but of when.  Funnily enough, until recently I used to rail against people describing cancer treatment as a ‘battle’, a ‘fight’ or a ‘war’. I had sad images of my old Dad, too weak to fight. But guess what - I’m getting over myself. If it helps some people to think like that, so be it.  Besides which, I think you can see I’m a bit of a street fighter myself - and I am not putting my coat back on just yet, not until I’m finished.

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