Tracey was a beloved member of the Breast Cancer Now team in Cardiff. Vicky and Elaine, two of Tracey's colleagues, spoke to us about how she continued working with secondary breast cancer patients even after she received a diagnosis of her own.
Tracey was a force to be reckoned with
Tracey was the service development coordinator in the Wales office, which included work on the Moving Forward and Living With Secondary Breast Cancer courses. She initially had a primary breast cancer diagnosis, which is why she became a volunteer for the charity.
I’ve also had a primary diagnosis and worked as a volunteer, and that’s how I met Tracey.
We were very likeminded in lots of ways, which really helped in our roles. I loved how much she enjoyed working for Breast Cancer Now, how passionate she was, and her beaming smile when she walked in every morning.
Tracey did so much for the charity. We used to run lingerie events in Wales, and she would get involved as much as possible. She would even participate as a model if we couldn’t find one!
Tracey was a force to be reckoned with. Prior to her breast cancer diagnosis, she was an intensive care and neonatal nurse for 30 years, which meant she was our unofficial medical guru on any ailment that anyone in the office had.
She was a really warm and reassuring presence for anyone coming to the Moving Forward course. Often, people would turn up and they’d be quite nervous or not sure what to expect and having Tracey there – someone who could deal with any matter in such a reassuring and knowledgeable way – was so valuable.
She was just an incredible person to work with.
She loved her job so much
Tracey was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in April 2018. It first showed up in her bones and gave her a bad back, but she already had back problems, so she wasn’t really sure what was going on.
Following her diagnosis, I think she wanted to be able to carry on as normal as possible and have something to focus on other than her diagnosis. She also felt it was important to share this experience with others. She just loved her role so much; she didn’t want to let anybody down.
Plus, she liked bossing us about!
Even with all her experience and knowledge, it still took a little bit of time for Tracey to get a referral to the breast care team. It was just devastating for all of us.
Due to her previous career as a nurse, Tracey had always looked after others and provided care for people, and I think it was a huge part of who she was. The physical effects of the cancer made it difficult for her to work, but it must have been hard dealing with the psychological ones too.
But I think that’s a testament to her strength, her stubbornness and her passion. She didn’t want to be defined by her diagnosis. She didn’t want to just be somebody with cancer, she wanted to carry on being Tracey – and that’s what she did.
Tracey would have wanted us to carry on raising money and awareness
Due to the current COVID-19 situation, we weren’t able to have a memorial service for Tracey, so we wanted to do something to honour her. Vicky came up with the idea of doing some fundraising in her name, and when we saw the £1,000 research challenge, we thought it would be ideal.
Tracey was part of the Unsurvivors campaign, so we knew how important it was for her to promote research into secondary breast cancer. She would have wanted us to carry that on.
As part of the £1,000 challenge, Helen and I from the Cardiff team took on the task of running 100km in March. Helen completed it in time, but I finished in April due to an injury - but I say better late than never!
We’re also fundraising virtually. So far, we’ve held a virtual facial, which was very relaxing, and we’re going to do a raffle – I’m hoping to raise lots of money that way.
I think it would be lovely to culminate all our fundraising efforts in a sponsored walk around the Newport Wetlands, as I know that was an area which was really special to Tracey. If we’re allowed, we’d like to gather with her family and friends and remember her.
I hope we make her proud
I’ve done a lot of fundraising myself over the years. I’ve done a couple of treks, I went to Iceland and Cuba, I’ve climbed Ben Nevis. It’s such an enjoyable way of raising money because it’s a real challenge, and when you achieve your challenges, it makes you feel incredibly proud. I would recommend fundraising to anybody.
Of course, we’re very passionate about it because we want to carry on the research to help people live well with breast cancer, but I think it’s also a great way of bonding with people. It’s really brought us together during this time. It’s enabled us to do something positive.
We will always be thinking and talking about her, so that will carry on her legacy for sure, but we’d also love to get a plaque for her on the wall by completing the £1,000 challenge.
To anyone who is considering fundraising for Breast Cancer Now – just go for it. Do something that’s a bit of a challenge (maybe not 100km if you’re not a runner, because it is a little bit tricky!) but something that works for you. It’s something different do to, especially in this environment when we’re all stuck indoors.
Even now, when restrictions are easing a bit, it’s good to get out of your comfort zone and do something different. It doesn’t have to be something sporty or drastic like shaving your head – just find something achievable and challenging, and you’ll find support. It’s so motivating to be able to do it as a group of people so that you can cheer one another on.
I think the best way we can continue Tracey’s legacy is to spread awareness of secondary breast cancer symptoms, to carry on her work and make her proud.
To help Vicky, Elaine and the rest of the team hit their £1,000 target, you can donate to their JustGiving page.
Tracey was one of thousands of people who get diagnosed with secondary breast cancer each year. To help us fund research into secondary breast cancer, we'd love for you to join us in one of our many fundraising challenges.