Having seen first hand just how much the support of CancerCare can help, Andrea Partridge was determined to give something back.
And, having recovered from stage 3 breast cancer, the 49-year-old is now working for the Lancaster charity – and has got her twin sister involved too.
Andrea was one of the thousands of people to be helped by the Slyne Road facility when she was diagnosed with cancer.
Andrea said: “I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2012 and started using the CancerCare services while I was having chemotherapy.
“It was CancerCare that got me through it emotionally. I had chemo and then a mastectomy and full lymph node clearance and then radiotherapy.
“CancerCare then helped me again when I had reconstructive surgery and lymphodema.
“As a cancer patient I know how limited this type of service is in other areas and how privileged we are to have this service.
“Knowing that we have got this on our doorstep has kept me sane. Emotionally and mentally it’s kept me in a really good place.
“These were the only appointments I looked forward to. Just coming for something like a massage felt like a weight being lifted just walking up the path.”
Andrea had been working at a dental practice when she was diagnosed, but chose not to return and later decided to send her CV to CancerCare.
She now works as the charity’s volunteer and engagement co-ordinator, looking after 120 volunteers.
She said: “I feel very privileged to be a part of the organisation. Cancer has brought me a lot of positives in a way, and being a part of this charity is amazing. It has changed my life completely and I can’t imagine us not having the service available.
“When you are going through something so terrifying, to be offered a service like CancerCare that’s free is unbelievable. It’s pretty special.”
Andrea’s twin sister Audra Mulholland also helps out as a volunteer whenever possible.
Audra said: “The first event Andrea asked me to do was the Bark in the Park.
“I am terrified of animals but I knew how important CancerCare was to her. I couldn’t do anything to physically help her but I could help others who might be in the same situation in the future.
“My little way of helping people with cancer is to go and help at these events. I couldn’t do anything while Andrea was going through her treatment to make her better but it made me feel better to be able to give something back. That made me feel like I was doing something positive.”
Andrea added: “Audra spent every day with me through my treatment. She would sleep on the floor and make sure I had everything I needed.
“When I told her how CancerCare were helping me I remember her saying that she didn’t have to worry so much because she knew I was getting help from CancerCare.”
Since learning so much about CancerCare, Audra has even taken to pointing others towards their help.
“I work in TKMaxx and I often get customers confiding in me about their cancer and I always tell them about CancerCare,” Audra said. “I didn’t know until Andrea was going through it that CancerCare could help patients as much as it does.
“For me it helped knowing that she was going to be with people who could help, and meeting people in the same situation who could understand each other.
“Other people are still being hit by this disease so we are still volunteering because there are so many people we can reach out to.
“It hit us in a bad way but it’s positive that we can carry on helping other people.
“A few hours of my time is nothing compared to what these people are going through.”
Andrea, who is married to Mark and has three children and two grandchildren, has been given a recurrence prognosis of 50/50, but is determined not to let it rule her life.
“I just get on with things,” she said. “It would take over your life otherwise.”
She added: “Giving back to a charity like CancerCare and helping other people is so rewarding; it’s such a good feeling. The atmosphere at fundraising events is incredible to be a part of. People normally have a personal link to CancerCare and you can see the satisfaction in them being able to give something back.”