Wakefield woman Kimberley Hattersley-Barton to host Life With The Ribbon: Charity Gala at Unity Hall for Macmillan Cancer Support, Beads of Courage UK and Starlight Children's Foundation

Aged just 26 Kimberley Hattersley-Barton has already fought off four cancer diagnoses. She tells Richard Fidler about her charity event next month.

For those whose lives have been touched by the ‘C’ word they will know exactly what Kimberley Hattersley-Barton means when she says: “Cancer is a strong word. I still don’t use that word much with myself, I say I’m ill.”

And for someone who has been through four cancer diagnoses by her early 20s, then the Wakefield dance teacher and choreographer has certainly earned the right to describe her health in any way she wants.

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Now aged 26, Kimberley was first diagnosed with cancer aged just 13 months old and has since received a further three diagnoses.

Kimberley Hattersley-Barton.Kimberley Hattersley-Barton.
Kimberley Hattersley-Barton.

She said: “My first diagnosis was just after I’d turned one in 1999, which was rhabdomyosarcoma (a type of soft tissue tumour). I’d started being sick and my mum felt my stomach, which was hard and solid. She took me to the local hospital who transferred me straight to Sheffield Children’s Hospital for emergency treatment which was followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

“The second time was when I was 18 years old. I’d spotted a lump at the back of my tongue while I was cleaning my braces. I ignored it for a few days before noticing the unsymmetrical appearance it had compared to the other side of my tongue.

“I didn’t know it was a tumour that had spread to the lymph nodes in my neck and was pushing onto my ear drum, which gave me a constant throbbing ear. In spring of 2020 I received my third diagnosis of cancer. Again it was a squamous cell carcinoma though it wasn’t a relapse because it was a new primary lesion.

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“I had the same surgery as before and a neck dissection, on the right side this time. Luckily it was first stage and there wasn’t any treatment needed.”

Kimberley Hattersley-BartonKimberley Hattersley-Barton
Kimberley Hattersley-Barton

If Kimberley was hoping her ‘luck’ would hold it became apparent that further treatment would soon be needed.

“The most recent diagnosis came two years ago in 2022,” she said. “Having been under surveillance scans on my neck since my third diagnosis they picked up a change in my neck again and confirmed a thyroid mutation. In December last year I had my thyroid removed as well as a third dissection.”

Despite suffering in 26 years more than most will in a lifetime there is no sense of Kimberley ever feeling sorry for herself or being stereotyped as an inspiration for others. While quite clearly she is an inspiring person she just wants to get on with life.

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“I’m currently in remission for all my cancers,” she said. “My last one is one year in remission as of last December, it’s four years since 2020 and eight years since 2016 so at the moment all is going well.

“There are two sides to this and I have always been aware that I have not been able to live a normal lifestyle. Sometimes I’ve not been well enough to do things but I always just try and get on with life. I’m an optimistic sort of person and very strong willed and always looking for the next thing to do. At the moment I’ve thrown myself into this event, and it is tiring, but I’m really looking forward to it."

The event she talks about is the ‘Life With The Ribbon: Charity Gala’ at Wakefield’s Unity Hall on Saturday, April 13, which is being organised by Kimberley and a close group of friends and family.

The “one-off showcase” will feature West End and industry professionals from shows including Pretty Woman, Les Misérables, Waitress and Cinderella. Money raised from ticket sales to Macmillan Cancer Support, Beads of Courage UK and Starlight Children's Foundation

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Kimberley said: “The organising is going really well with everyone putting a lot of work into it. There has been a lot of time and effort but it is very exciting as the event gets closer to happening. Day to day there has been a struggle with fatigue and sometimes I feel totally wiped out but knowing that it is going to happen, I can’t wait.”

It is hard to imagine the cumulative effects that successive bouts of treatment has had on Kimberley’s body. The chronic fatigue is just one aspect, but it runs deeper.

She explained: “The main late effect of the treatment has on me is from kidney failure. It has to be monitored frequently and I’ve recently transitioned to pre-dialysis clinic because they’re at a dangerous level. This condition impacts my energy levels and leaves me with extreme fatigue. It also affects my breathing and I’m susceptible to water infections as well. I have ovarian failure and am infertile, which was only properly diagnosed last year.”

Due to ovarian failure Kimberley hasn’t naturally been through puberty and had to go through hormone replacement therapy during her early teens. It meant she was injected with hormones every night for eight years for the hormones to do everything her body should have been doing but couldn’t.

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Kimberley has simply got on with life and will proudly perform in front of mum Claire, dad Chris and sister Jessamyn alongside friends at the event next month.

“People wear a ribbon to support others that have cancer so when I was looking to tell my story I thought it’s my life with the ribbon so ‘Kimberley’s life with the ribbon’ became my handle on social media,” she said. “I’d love people to come along and have a good time. It’d be great to make this so successful that we could have a second year in a row.”

There are 43 different cancer ribbon colours, such as pink for breast cancer and orange for leukemia.

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You can buy tickets – ranging from £20 to £25 – for Kimberley’s event, which starts at 6pm, from the Unity Hall website and Kimberley regularly posts information on her Instagram account: @kimberleys_lifewiththeribbon. All of the ticket price (minus booking fee) will be donated to charity.