Lancashire hairdresser Toni Ridddick turned to fund raising when she discovered she had cancer. She shares her story with Fiona Finch.
When the ‘Calendar Girls’ film opened in cinemas in 2003 Toni Riddick admired it enormously.
But she never thought she too would be appearing in a calendar to raise funds for a cancer charity.
That is exactly what has happened this year after the Garstang hairdresser received the devastating news she had an aggressive form of breast cancer.
After her diagnosis Toni discovered a new incentive in fundraising.
She said: “I needed a distraction. It was the only way I could cope with it. I thought if I could make someone’s life better at that point… if I could make changes to one person’s life I would be happy.”
The Breast of Britain calendar, featuring Toni and friends, was photographed at the Middle Holly Cottage Tea Room at Forton and has just gone on sale to raise funds for the CancerCare charity.
Toni wanted the calendar to be both tasteful and fun and her wishes have certainly come true with a calendar designed in vintage style.
It was given a novel launch with the help of long standing friends sisters Lynne Shimell and Jill Cross, proprietors of Iced on Garstang’s High Street, who created a special “boobilicious” bras cake and decorated their shop window too (see photo below).
The launch took place at Iced with a gift of a slice of cake for everyone who purchased the £8.00 calendar. Lynne said: “We were given instructions. It had to be vintage and tastefully done.”
Prior to her illness Toni, who was brought up in Scorton and now lives at Glasson Dock, worked at Kwik Kutz in Garstang cutting men’s hair.
It was in April she discovered a lump in her breast while showering.
She said: “A lump just appeared one morning in the shower I just saw it. I had to wait a week or two for an appointment .” Toni recalls that the first indication things were not good had come after a mammogram when she was asked if she had someone to take her home. After further tests it was confirmed she an aggressive grade 3 cancer.
She said: “I had had cysts before and I knew this one didn’t move and it was different. You feel a bit numb really. You don’t know what to say - it’s like your life flashes in front of you. I didn’t remember driving home. It was almost slow motion when I came out of the clinic.”
Since then Toni has summoned the strength of spirt and what vigour she has on her good days to cope with and seek to combat the cancer.
She said:”It’s come from somewhere. They give you steroids with the chemo and you’re up for three days racing and then you slump. You feel you can conquer the world when you have it. When you slump it’s a different story“?
Toni decided to have her hair cut off before the chemo took effect and said: “I wasn’t going to be a slave to my cancer.”
But even though she had been advised of the effects of chemo it still had n’o prepared her for the impact. She said: “I honestly don’t know how kids go through it – I take my hat off to them. I never thought I would say I would give up but there was a point …but from somewhere you get strength. When you think only a few more (treatments) you get on with it. You get a second wind.”
She continued: “I also think my second wind was with everybody’s support. I’m overwhelmed with the support of family and friends. That’s really what’s kept me going.”
She singles out husband Alex and daughter Chelsea for their love and constant care and says going to her cousin’s gym BA Fitness at Morecambe regularly has helped her enormously.
Chelsea, who graduated with first class honours this year, prepared a special gift box for her mum full of essential toiletries. Toni said: “I couldn’t have asked for a better daughter and friend. She’s there for me every moment of the day. She’s always helped me when I’m down. The shoebox contained things I would need for my chemo journey, from a hair loss cap to ginger for nausea, lip salve, sugar free sweets. She had gift wrapped every single one with pink ribbon and labelled it.”
Meanwhile husband Alex gets praise too: “Alex is just amazing. I wouldn’t get through it without him either.
Toni completed chemo treatment some weeks ago and surgery and radiotherapy will follow.
She said: “I’ve still got that nausea feeling right deep in my stomach two weeks later, everything smells different and tastes different. – it’s weird.”
Through all those difficult weeks the drive to create the calendar, see it designed and printed and put on sale helped her cope.
Toni asked friends to join her and, she says, found the perfect venue for the calendar shoot – at the Middle Holly tea room at Forton.
Her fellow models vouch that Toni has been inspirational.
Emma Brierley said:” Toni has been so brave and strong through all this and a true inspiration. I felt that doing this was not only in support for Toni but anybody dealing with cancer. I lost my sister last year to cancer so it’s very close to my heart. It was good fun with a great bunch of girls.””
The calendar is now on sale at venues in Garstang, Lancaster and Wyre . It is also on sale at The Grapes in Goosnargh
Sara Payne who features in the calendar isna barmaid at The Grapes. She said : “I help out at The Grapes. It’s my best friends’ Julie and John Walker’s pub. I asked if we could sell the calendars. They were more than happy to do it and put a poster near the bar saying ‘Featuring barmaid Sara’! Hopefully we’ll be able to raise a few more pounds.”
A delighted Toni, who was keen to raise funds for Lancaster based CancerCare because she has been helped by the charity,. said: “I wasn’t sure whether everybody would agree but it’s all slotted into place.”
• The calendar was photographed by Gary Dagnall , CF Photography and the design and picture editing was done by graphic designer a Jane Snowden of the village shop at Glasson Dock.
* Not content with the calendar Toni has organised another fundraiser – a sold out afternoon tea at the Shireshead Cricket Club with cakes kindly provided by Middle Holly Cottage Tea Room, family and friends,
The calendar is now on sale at: Iced, Seeds stationers, Kwik Kutz and the Croston Road store in Garstang; Middle Holly Cottage Tea Room, Forton; The Grapes at Goosnargh; CancerCare Lancaster; Great Eccleston barbers;The Shop, Glasson Dock; The Barn, Scorton;Oncology Unit, Lancster Royal Infirmary;Old Hall Pub,Heysham; Hair22 , Morecambe and the Naomi Waite Nail and Beauty Studio in Bowerham.