Amy Usher suffers a rare incurable cancer and yet she remains amazingly positive and is an inspiration to her family especially sister Beth. Catherine Scott meets them.
Beth Usher has always looked out for her little sister Amy. When Amy got hurt, or things went wrong then Beth would be there to put things right.
But not this time.
Amy, 21, has been diagnosed with incurable throat cancer and there is nothing Beth, 23, can do to save her little sister.
“We are incredibly close,” says Beth from Wath. “There are only two years between us and as you get older those two years seem to get less and less. We aren’t just sister we are best friends. I now feel just so helpless as there is nothing I can do to help Amy.”
Amy started to feel unwell just before Christmas in 2012.
“I came home from University for the Christmas holidays and I said to my mum that my chest was feeling a bit funny. I went to the doctors and he said I probably had a chest infection and gave me antibiotics.”
But Amy started to struggled to breathe and eventually doctors sent her for an X Ray.
“They said they could see something but they weren’t sure what it was so I spent a few days in Doncaster hospitals as they thought it was a lump on my thyroid.”
But in fact it was a tumour, a rare form of throat cancer and she was referred to the Northern General Hospital.
“Even then I don’t think it had occurred to any of us how bad it actually was.” Amy was in hospital for five weeks as surgeons tried to remove as much of the tumour as possible. She was fitted with a tracheotomy which would allow her to breathe if the tumour returned.
“I was shown how to look after the trachea in Doncaster. I remember thinking that I just wasn’t going to be able to get used to it. But now I don’t even think about it. It’s just part of life. Although I do really miss the fact that I can’t go swimming as I used to go nearly every morning and was a great way of keeping fit.”
Amy was also treated with radiotherapy which doctors at Weston Park Hospital hoped would get rid of any remaining tumour. The treatment made Amy very poorly and unfortunately didn’t work.
“You go through all that and then to be told it hasn’t worked is really hard. My form of cancer is very rare and they just don’t know is going to work and what isn’t. But then they say there is something else to try and that’s what helps keep me positive.”
A round of chemotherapy seemed to have worked, but last summer she was told that the tumour had grown back and was incurable.
Despite this prognosis, Amy remains incredibly positive, giving strength to those around her. However this modest forensic science student says she gets strength from her loved ones.
“They are so supportive, especially Beth. I know she struggles because she can’t do anything to make it go away,but she is always there for me.
“It is harder for my family in some ways as they feel helpless. I just have to get on with it. I do have bad days where I just don’t want to get out of bed, but mainly I want to keep busy and just do as many things as possible while I can.”
It is this remarkable spirit and the bond between sisters which has touched so many people. Feeling helpless, Beth decided to take part in this weekend’s Run in the Park for Weston Park Hospital.
“I wanted to do something, to give something back to the people who are trying to help Amy,” says Beth.
She set up a Just Giving page, with the aim of raising £200 for the hospital and the Teenage Cancer Unit where Amy is treated.
“She was worried she might not even raise the £35 she needed to get the T-shirt,” laughs Amy. “She asked if she didn’t raise it would I sponsor her £35.”
Beth needn’t have worried.
Even before she shared the link to her charity page it had passed the £200 mark so she raised it to £300.
However, the inspirational sisters touched the hearts of the community, including the Sheffield Steelers Ice Hockey team, and with in matter of days the money raised has exceeded £3,500.
“We just can’t believe it,” says Beth. “People have been so generous. I never thought we’d raise anything like that but it is for a very good cause.” The girls’ relationships with Sheffield Steelers started after they got some free tickets to go and see them play in Sheffield.
“I didn’t know anything about ice hockey but I really loved it,” says Amy. “Me and Beth just kept going and then one of my nurses wrote to them and asked if they would do something special for me. I got to meet the players and ever since then the relationship has kept growing.
“We get to go on the team bus which is amazing, It makes me forget event for justa couple of hours that I am poorly.”
Not only have they helped by using social media to garner support for Beth and Amy, one of their sponsors, Purpose Media Ltd, has pledged to give £10 for every Steelers goal scored and £50 for every shut out.
Meanwhile Amy and Beth are determined to make the most of life.
“There’s nothing that can teach you how to deal with something like this. You just have to get on with it and focus on the next treatment. We are trying to do as many things as possible. I love going to pop concerts and before we might have said it was too expensive now we are just trying to see as many people as possible.”