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When Hannah’s mum was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer last year, it took a while for her family to adjust. She tells us how planning ahead helps her stay positive, and how hosting an Afternoon Tea gave her something to look forward to.
In my family, we’re super close to one another. We all live in Essex, not too far from one another, and I’m very fortunate to still have my Nan and Grandad around. I'm not married and I don’t have children, but I'm the world’s best auntie.
When mum was diagnosed with breast cancer in March last year, it really affected all of us.
As the oldest of three, I often end up being the family PA. I manage everything for everyone, even down to people’s banking and prescriptions. But when mum got the news, I suddenly felt useless. I had no idea what to do.
Once I’d sort of accepted what was happening, though, I knew that I would have to deal with it. I had some great friends – some of whom work in the medical sector – to talk to about everything, and they gave me some great advice.
One of my friends, Mandy, told me to go to Breast Cancer Now for information, and to only read what I needed to read.
Mum needed a mastectomy, and she went on to develop sepsis while she was in hospital. At one point, she had to be resuscitated. I was there when it happened. It was just like you see on TV – everybody ran in and I got asked to leave.
After that, we found out that the cancer had already spread to mum’s bones, meaning that it was manageable but not curable. It took us a few months just to come to terms with that.
Mum and I have always been close, but I noticed that she started relying on me more – often just comfort and reassurance. I made sure to go bra shopping with her after her surgery, and just try to keep her occupied.
We learned quickly that making plans and having things to look forward to is vital.
Over that summer, my sister, Melissa, saw something about Afternoon Tea online and signed up for a fundraising pack. It wasn’t initially about the fundraising – she just wanted another thing for mum to look forward to.
However, Melissa had her own struggles going on at the time, and I noticed that this pack she’d ordered just sat in her lounge for weeks. I didn’t want her to feel like I was taking the event away from her but, after a while, I asked if she would like me to organise it – and she said yes.
I work for a local newspaper running the competition side of things, so I’m used to event organising.
The stuff we got in the fundraising pack was excellent, but I wanted to add a few touches of my own. I went out and bought so many decorations the entire house was pink! I also got everyone a pink flower to take home with them.
We had a pink-themed quiz that my brother’s girlfriend put together, played the ‘Game of Scones’ game that came with our fundraising pack, and also a game of bingo. I also put together a ‘guess the celebrity’ game that I’d made by finding pictures of celebrities in pink outfits and covering their faces.
I reached out to some local businesses explaining who I was and what I was planning on doing, and I had a few cafes give us prizes for a raffle and some teacups and plates to use. Mum works at Morrisons, so they supported us by donating a huge hamper as well. On the day, some guests turned up with more prizes to donate, which was a lovely surprise.
We had friends turn up that mum hadn’t seen for years, even though they only live around the corner. We also learned that six other people in attendance had previously had cancer, so it was emotional for a lot of us.
We started at 1 o’clock and the last people didn’t leave until about 8 o’clock – partly because some people decided to bring wine instead of tea bags!
What was supposed to be a quaint little tea turned out to be a huge party, and we raised £467!
Mum said it was the best day she’d had all year, and my dad – a man of few words – said it was just what everyone needed after the last couple of years we’d had. That meant so much to me, and gave me the drive to take part in more fundraising events going forward.
Mum is doing alright at the moment. She’s back at work two days a week, and she does that around having her monthly bone infusions and three-monthly CT scans. She also needs blood tests quite often, so I make sure to book that for her.
Not once has she shied away from the fact she has breast cancer, and has always shown great courage and determination to push on. I’m so proud of her.
Whether you are personally affected by breast cancer, want to support a loved one who is, or just want to join in the fun - we'd love to have you join us by hosting an Afternoon Tea this year!