Lifeboat stalwart offers moving message of hope in cancer fight

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A FORMER East Riding councillor is trying to help others by speaking out about her battle with cancer.

Polly Worsdale, well known for her involvement with the inshore lifeboat Hornsea Rescue, was diagnosed with bowel cancer two years ago and was recently told she had a few months to live.

Despite that she remains cheerful and upbeat about her “adventure” and has proved such an inspiration that she has been invited to speak at a conference in Hull next month.

Polly, who is stepping down as a trustee with the lifeboat in March, said: “Some people with terminal cancer are understandably frightened, and give up the ghost and think ‘I am dying.’

“But you really need to live; in a way it is great because you make the most out of your life.”

She added: “It is almost exactly two years to the day that I found out, much to my amazement, that I had bowel cancer, and it had spread to the liver and possibly somewhere else and later on that it had spread to more cavities than I know existed. Their actual words were: ‘We can prolong your life but we can’t save it.”

Polly had a test at 60 for bowel cancer which was clear, but a year later went back to the doctor’s because she was having to go the toilet earlier in the morning and was passing blood. A colonoscopy confirmed the cancer and for the past 18 months she has been having different types of chemotherapy.

In September she was offered a further chemotherapy drug. “I decided my life would probably be shorter but I would lose my hair and so on which I couldn’t face,” she said.

It was then she asked how much longer she was likely to live. The answer – the average was three months – was a shock, but she added: “Both my parents lived to their mid 80s, but then I thought why not? In a way I thought it was quite exciting.”

As well as lying in bed until 9.30 in the morning, she says there are many positives. “I’ve been blessed with a very positive approach to life - I’ve always been ‘my glass is overflowing’”. You really appreciate everything - I have always loved flowers, butterflies and nature, and there’s your friends and family and I have been very fortunate in my husband Ian. He has been very loving and supportive.”

As well as urging people to be aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer - a change in bowel habits - among others, Polly says it is important people with a terminal condition realise they can get £120 in benefits - which means not worrying about turning up the heating or enjoying lunch out with friends.

One of the things she will tell health professionals at the conference on gastrointestinal palliative care on March 21, organised by the local Macmillan GP team, is to avoid jargon - and to be warm with patients.

Polly, who was invited to speak by her GP Dr Emma Dawber, said: “When you go for chemo you can be feeling low. At Castle Hill Hospital the nurses are very caring, they listen to you, they look at you and they’ll touch you, put a hand on your shoulder, that’s important.”

Sue Hickson-Marsay, chairman of HIR, said: “Polly is an absolute breath of fresh air. She has been a huge part of Hornsea Inshore Rescue from doing the publicity to getting involved with fundraising activities. She is just wonderful.”