As Vicki Higham, of Preston, had been in remission for cervical cancer, she was hit with the news she then had leukaemia in 2016.
But now the 37-year-old has been successfully treated for both, she is putting her energies into fund-raising. Her primary focus is to raise awareness of cervical cancer, which took the life of her friend, Sadie Wright earlier this year.
Vicki, who was given the all clear from cervical cancer earlier this year, says: “It is important to raise awareness. One of my good friends, Sadie, died earlier this year. Cervical cancer has been in the spotlight since Jade Goody died and it makes people rethink about skipping smear tests. People don’t go as they don’t want to find anything, but that is the point. It is five seconds of being uncomfortable but it will save a life. Nurses do it day in, day out and they do not care if you have not shaved. It is their job.”
So far, Vicki has raised around £6,000 for Rosemere Cancer Foundation by taking part in a 22-mile walk from Blackpool Pleasure Beach to Preston Wilbraham Club and a charity night there. Her goddaughter, Ellie-May Latus, nine, and niece, Cassidy Kilpatrick, 10, also raised money for Rosemere when they had their hair cut, which was donated to The Little Princess Trust.
Vicki says she wants to warn people to get themselves checked out if they spot something wrong, as her cancer was not picked up by a smear test, but as a result of heavy bleeding.
The mother-of-one recalls: “The slightest worrying thing, you should check it out. I was bleeding between periods, ignoring it for a while, thinking everyone bleeds between periods, but it was not normal.
“Doctors thought I had polyps at first and then they thought I was having a miscarriage, but I didn’t think I was pregnant.
“I had an MRI scan at Royal Preston Hospital and doctors found a 7cm tumour. This was in October 2013.
“I had six months of chemotherapy and radiation, and two brachytherapy (internal radiation) at the Christie Hospital. That ended in March 2014. It was awful. I was thinking ‘how could this happen?’
"My little boy was nine and was just starting a new primary school, but he was amazing. I was given a good prognosis and I was positive through it all. At first I thought ‘my life is over,’ but my husband, son and family and friends have been so supportive. I went out with my friends and carried on as normal. My oncologist told me that if I acted like a cancer patient, I would be one.”
But two years later, just as she was getting her health back on track, she was diagnosed with leukaemia.
She adds: “I felt great after completing treatment for cervical cancer. I felt like I had my life back. I just wanted to get on with things, like going out to see friends or shopping. It felt great to not be tired from a simple walk down the street. I couldn’t wait to get back to work too
"I was two years in remission and then I was diagnosed with leukaemia in January 2016. I was just run down and exhausted. I felt like I had flu, but worse. My husband, Mick, took me to A&E as a precaution, as advised by my GP and I had blood tests which confirmed the leukaemia.
"I went sent by ambulance to Blackpool Victoria where I spent the majority of the first half of 2016. They were amazing.
"I had six months of chemotherapy. I’m still in remission for that and will be all clear in June 2021.”
Vicki plans to start fund-raising for St Catherine’s Hospice with her friend Tash Smalley next year and hopes to follow that on with supporting charities relating to blood cancers and leukaemia.