All three generations of the same family have been diagnosed with similar types of cancer, say they are determined to help others who will face the disease in the future.
This September, after already seeing her daughter and granddaughter go through cancer, Nan Pat Boughen, 83, who lives in Hatfield. was herself diagnosed after tests showed that a lump on her neck which came and went was Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
The first in the family to be affected by the disease was Pat’s daughter, Joanne Moss, 49, who diagnosed with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, in May 2010 at the age of 42.
Joanne had two school aged children at the time – Jessica, 14, and Alistair, 11. Joanne was determined to beat the disease for them.
Five years later in September 2015 and just a few months after Joanne’s final check-up, her daughter Jessica - who was then 19 - was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Joanne’s family, who now live in Washingborough, Lincolnshire, could not believe their bad luck and that they had to go through the trauma again.
Then this year, in a cruel twist of fate, just as life was getting back to normal for the family a second time, Joanne’s mum Pat was diagnosed.
Pat has moved in with her daughter and her family while she goes through chemotherapy treatment.
Now the three generations are sharing their experiences to highlight Cancer Research UK’s ‘Right Now’ campaign and to raise awareness of the need for research.
Joanne said: “Mum had a lump in her neck that came and went. She had an ultrasound scan but it didn’t show anything.
"Mum had other symptoms which they thought might be a condition called Sjogren’s Syndrome. We were expecting that to be diagnosed. At the back of my mind I thought, could it be that, could it be cancer? I had these doubts but you just hope it’s not.
“When Jessica had been diagnosed I went into practical mode, that took over and I kept focused on what she needed, what appointments were coming up and looking after her.
"If I look back on when I was diagnosed, it feels surreal, as if it all happened to someone else. I am a practical person so just got on with things, you have to.
"But with mum, I can’t explain why, I found it really unsettling and very emotional. I got the call when I was at work. When they told me I started shaking, I was in a state of shock. I just broke down.
“It took me a few weeks to really get my head around things and to realise what we were facing and that this really was happening to us again. We still can’t believe it. Just as we were getting life back to normal, cancer strikes again. To be unlucky twice is ridiculous but three times is unbelievable.”
University student Jessica, 21, was with her nana at the hospital appointment when she was diagnosed. She caught sight of the notes before they had spoken to the consultant and saw the diagnosis in black and white.
Jessica said: “I think somehow I knew what it would be but it was still a real shock. I took nana’s hand and was very calm. If I hadn’t been through it myself it might have been different, I might have found it scary but I knew what to expect, I knew there was treatment and that you can be diagnosed and come through it.
“There are some days over Christmas where we’ll both be at the same hospital, nana going in for chemotherapy and me going for a check-up. They’ve said it’s not genetic, we’ve wondered if we’re predisposed to it or just very unlucky, but no one can say for sure.”
Pat is half way through her chemotherapy. The lump in her neck has gone but they are targeting other traces of cancer close to the pelvis. Pat’s treatment is expected to finish in March.
Pat said: “I have been so well looked after at the hospital and here with Joanne and the family. Gary, my son-in-law, takes me to some appointments, Joanne makes sure I eat properly and gets me out and about. Jessica came with me to the hospital when I was diagnosed. Alistair gave up the annexe for me. They are taking very good care of me.
“You do think of how unusual this is, how unlucky for three of us in the same family to go through this but it’s brought us closer, for me to understand what they’ve been through and also to be able to talk about losing your hair and things like that. Joanne had a bone marrow biopsy during her treatment which was very painful, I wasn’t looking forward to that but they did it and it didn’t hurt at all! I thought, if that’s the worst of it then I can do this! I’ve felt very tired but not too ill.”
Cancer Research UK’s powerful and emotive ‘Right Now’ TV ads show real patients undergoing cancer treatment 1-2 years ago, followed up by current home video showing how research has helped them get back to enjoying life with their loved ones.
In a similar move, by talking about their experiences during treatment, Pat, Joanne and Jessica hope to draw attention to the impact cancer research has had on their lives – giving them more time with the people they love.
Joanne said: “At the moment we’re enjoying spending time together but we’re taking every day at a time. We have a routine now and that makes it easier.
“We’ve been fundraising for cancer charities ever since I was diagnosed because we know how important research and treatment is. When I was diagnosed they told me my cancer type was a good one to have because they had the research, drugs and knowledge to treat it. It was the same for Jessica and it should be the same for mum. But not everyone is that lucky. We hope our stories motivate other people to get involved and help even more people survive.”
Cancer Research UK’s ‘Right Now’ campaign aims to bring to life the positive impact research and improved treatments has on the many men, women and children diagnosed with cancer across the UK. In sharing these stories, the campaign aims to pull people closer to the cause and show how actions taken right now can make a real tangible difference in helping more people survive.
One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their lives, but the good news is more people are surviving the disease now than ever before. Survival has doubled in the last 40 years in the UK. But to help continue this progress, Cancer Research UK needs everyone in Yorkshire to act right now.
Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Yorkshire, said: “We are so grateful to Pat, Joanne and Jessica for sharing their cancer stories to help raise awareness.
“We’re working every day to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease. But we can’t do it alone. We hope our new campaign will inspire people to take action, right now, and play their part in beating cancer sooner.
“There are so many ways to show your support, from signing up to Race for Life, donating items to one of our shops or giving time to volunteer. Every action makes a difference and money raised helps to support Cancer Research UK’s life-saving work.”
For more information on how to help beat cancer sooner, visit www.cruk.org