Toria Kendrick was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after having a baby and seeing her own mother go through treatment. Once she felt well enough to return to work, she began raising money to help others.
I thought I could work during treatment
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2015. I was 37 years old, worked full-time at Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP and had returned from maternity leave 10 months previous. During those 10 months, I had witnessed my mum being diagnosed twice with cancer, and she was still receiving treatment when I got my news.
My first operation took place in September, followed by a second operation three weeks later. As I continued to work throughout my first operations, I think there was something subconsciously telling me that if I continued to work then everything would be okay.
However, after that, I was told that I would need six months of chemotherapy, followed by 15 cycles of radiotherapy. I quickly realised through conversations with both my oncology team and colleagues at the firm that I should take the time to allow my body to fully recover.
I only told those who worked closely with me about my diagnosis, and the support I received from such a small network was incredible. It became evident when my body became so weak that adding work into the equation would have been very difficult, and so I’m thankful for the amazing advice and support given to me.
While there are lots of people who do continue to work throughout their treatment, I am very grateful that I was financially secure enough to take six months away from the office and fully concentrate on both my treatment and getting myself better.
I valued the support I got during treatment
Chemotherapy is tough. As well as losing my hair, I experienced an allergic reaction and needed a reduced dose for the last two cycles.
Radiotherapy meant I needed to go into hospital every day for 15 days. My work colleagues kept in touch the entire time, sending encouraging texts and voicemails, which all helped my recovery.
I returned to work a month later, feeling the need to ‘get back to normal’. The firm was incredible and planned out my phased return over the summer months. Everyone in my local office was really supportive and played a part in making the transition easy for me.
Balancing work started to become a little more difficult six months post-returning. I think the enormity of what had happened hit me. Again, work were incredibly considerate. It was actually through the firm’s Employee Assistance Programme that I was able to access counselling – something that really helped me.
The help I got from Breast Cancer Now inspired me to fundraise
Just before my diagnosis, I had become an active member of the firm’s charity committee and had taken on the charity representative role for prostate cancer. During my six months of treatment, I continued to raise money by asking friends to donate items for a local office raffle.
Together, we were able to raise a substantial amount of money and I was so proud of what we had achieved. Following my return to work, I was determined to raise money for Breast Cancer Now, as they had really supported me during my diagnosis.
My first charity event involved me encouraging a group of friends and colleagues to join me on a 20-mile walk through central London on a busy Saturday night. It was tough but brilliant, and the money we raised encouraged me to do more.
My second event took a slightly different route as I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to walk the catwalk at the Breast Cancer Now annual dinner and fundraiser. How fantastic to meet 22 other people who had experienced something similar and raise money at the same time!
Sadly, four of that group are no longer with us, which makes me even more determined to raise as much money as possible.
Raising money as a team is so rewarding
When I was told about Tour de Law, a team bike riding event, I knew it was something we needed to do. By working with Breast Cancer Now, we were able to bring the ‘Wales on Wheels’ event to Cardiff.
The whole office got involved, raising £10,000, which is an outstanding achievement. The event was absolutely fantastic as it brought so much excitement, competitive rivalry and, most importantly, awareness to the Cardiff team. I was even told by a colleague that, had it not been for the event, they would never have gone to see their doctor.
During Breast Cancer Awareness month in October, 60 colleagues from across our UK offices took part in the Tour de Law. They covered an incredible 4,833km and took a hard-fought second place. As a team, an outstanding £17,094 was raised (including £5K from the firm's Charitable Trust).
The pandemic has presented a real challenge for charities – so please join me in doing what you can to raise money and awareness. Tour de Law is a great way to bring the office together and raise money for such an important charity.
The more money we raise will ensure that this brilliant charity continues educating, supporting and helping people just like me. As a young mum diagnosed with breast cancer, I really didn’t know what life had in store for me, but the knowledge and support given to me by the charity truly helped me through every part of my journey.
If you work within a law firm and would like to take part in raising funds for Breast Cancer Now with your colleagues, we'd love to invite you to join us for our 2021 event. The signup deadline for our 2021 event is Wednesday 6th October, so get in touch today if you’d like to take part.