Lynda holds charity coffee morning in memory of her mum and friend and for those living with breast cancer
My mum was the only parent I knew who worked full time when my brother and I were schoolchildren. She knew how to use a computer long before I did as she used one in her role as an account manager at the Oxford Mail. She worked hard, loved dancing and going on holiday. Her glass was always half full, she loved people and she socialised a lot.
Mum was 65 in 2000 when she found a lump in the shower. She had only very recently had a mammogram, so it was quite a surprise when the 2cm lump was found to be oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.
Within three weeks of going to the doctors, she underwent a lumpectomy with full lymph node clearance. Mum didn’t receive chemotherapy and instead went on to have radiotherapy. She struggled with exhaustion as she was nursing my dad throughout her own treatment and even when he was hospitalised, she would go in to see him twice a day. The blisters and burns which came after the radiation boosts really took its toll.
Mum was in remission after the radiotherapy and she continued to take tamoxifen for the next five years.
In 2006, I noticed that Mum’s left eye had started to bulge. She went to the doctor in November, but no diagnosis was made and it wasn’t until she went to have her eyes tested that an abnormality was picked up.
A brain scan showed patches of metastases all over her brain in addition to the tumour behind her left eye. It was completely untreatable, but she had radiotherapy to reduce her discomfort.
The brain tumours were affecting her mobility to the point where her legs would give way, causing a series of falls so she went into Sobell House for one week’s respite.
Throughout all this, Mum never said ‘why me’. She was so accepting, saying to me ‘If we’re right then I’m going to heaven and if we’re not I’m just going to have a very long sleep’. She wasn’t scared of death at all.
Just ten weeks after her secondary breast cancer diagnosis, Mum had a pulmonary embolism. As soon as I got the call, I started making my way to Sobell House so I could be with her, but there wasn’t enough time.
Mum passed away in the early hours of the morning with her nurse holding her hand. She was set to return home that very day. When my brother and I got there, the nurses made us a cup of tea and left us to say our goodbyes to Mum. They were able to tell me that she had passed away peacefully. I am so grateful to the Sobell House staff for all they did.
Mum had written a letter for us to read after her death which included the hymns she wanted for her service. At the very end was the message ‘I’ve had a wonderful life and I don’t regret anything. Live life to the full.’ This stays with me as something Mum wanted for us.
The day after, I was due to host my third charity coffee morning for Macmillan. I had to go ahead with it as not only was it impossible to let everyone know, Mum had given me her donation the week before saying that she didn’t think she would be able to be there in person.
Three of my friends took emergency days off work to help, so I greeted people and they did the rest. It was awful, but talking to people about Mum and doing something to fundraise for a cancer charity was cathartic.
Every year since Mum died I feel compelled to continue, in memory of her and now my lovely friend Nannette too. I decided after ten years supporting Macmillan and raising over £10,000 for them, I wanted to support a breast cancer charity. Knowing Jeanne Chattoe, one of Against Breast Cancer’s trustees, it felt right to support Against Breast Cancer.
My charity coffee morning has grown so much now that I have two people helping me with the washing up, two people serving and one person monitoring gift aid! The first year, thirty people came and last year I had eighty-two people in my house between 10am and 2pm!
It’s such a lovely way of raising money, I’m not going to do a skydive or cycle from John O’Groats to Lands’ End, but I enjoy the social element of a charity coffee morning where everyone can join in.
I will continue to host my charity coffee morning not only in memory of my mum, but in memory of my friend who passed away from secondary spread breast cancer in 2019 as well as my friends who are still living with breast cancer.