Laura Ashurst from Stokesley has just celebrated her 50th birthday with her twin sister, the Goodnight Sweetheart actress Elizabeth Carling, something she never thought would be possible after being diagnosed an incurable form of breast cancer in 2007.
She was first treated for cancer in August 2001, aged 34, after she found a lump in her right breast. At the time her son Jack was only five months old and her daughter Megan was three.
But just three years later the cancer returned and she underwent a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Despite being well for the subsequent three years, during treatment for back pain she discovered the cancer had spread to other areas of her body and this secondary breast cancer no longer curable.
At just 40-years-old she was told that her prognosis was around two years. She began chemotherapy immediately followed by the drug letrozole, a hormone therapy drug designed to stop or slow the growth of cancer.
“It is now 10 years since I was given that very poor prognosis, and I’ve surpassed what was expected,” she said. “Every day is a bonus and I put that down to the wonders of cancer research.
“During this time I’ve been able to celebrate as my children get older and see them reach milestones in their own lives. Jack is now 16 and completed his GCSEs and Megan is 20, finished her A-Levels and is now at university. Last year I was even able to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary with my husband Paul, who has been by my side every step of the way.
“I’m known as an exceptional survivor by my medical team and as a result the months have turned into years and I’ve been able to reach one of the biggest milestones of all, my 50th birthday. I’ve achieved this monumental milestone with my twin sister Lizzie, and we were able to celebrate our 50th birthdays together, something I didn’t think would ever be possible.
“I’m currently defying statistics and the data on 10 year survival patterns, and now I’ve entered my fifth decade, I really cannot stop smiling.”
Mrs Ashurst has shared her experience to highlight Cancer Research UK’s ‘Right Now’ campaign, which is showing the positive impact of research. REAL patients are shown in home videos enjoying family life years after being filmed undergoing cancer treatments in emotive new television ads.
Cancer Research UK funded researchers carried out key early work on breast cancer drugs called ‘aromatase inhibitors’, which paved the way for drugs such as letrozole, which Mrs Ashurst continues to take.
Mrs Ashurst said: “Following my diagnosis I retired from work as a beauty therapist and lecturer to focus on my family and charity work. I became a Cancer Research UK Ambassador in 2011 and support the charity anyway I can. It’s thanks to research that I’ve been able to celebrate these milestones with my family and I look forward to 2018 and enjoying all the normal everyday moments life has to offer.”
Charity spokesperson Lisa Millett said: “There’s not many people who can represent the true impact of research like Laura. Survival has doubled in the last 40 years in the UK and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress.”