Suffolk incurable cancer mum gives back to charity that helped her
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
A mum living with incurable cancer from Suffolk has been doing everything she can to give back to charities that helped her and her late husband.
Michelle Harris, a finance analyst at Ipswich Building Society, hiked 26-miles on Saturday, July 31 for Macmillian Cancer Support.
The 56-year-old was diagnosed with incurable follicular lymphoma in 2013 and is currently in remission.
She said: "That word ‘incurable’ just floored me, my family, my husband and we really did need the support of Macmillan.
“The staff in the Macmillan Centre at West Suffolk Hospital helped me to come to terms with that diagnosis, they were there to support me with all the niggly questions when I went for six months of intensive chemotherapy, and then two years of maintenance chemotherapy.
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“They remain friends and whenever I visit the hospital for check-ups, they’re always there, ready to answer any question I might have and are part of what makes the atmosphere really lovely."
After Macmillan helped Mrs Harris, from Great Waldingfield, near Sudbury, she also had to call on them again.
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“Sadly in 2018, I needed their service again," she said.
"My husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and again that word, ‘pancreatic cancer’ sends a shiver down your spine because you know what the outcome is going to be. We only had three months.
“My local hospice was fantastic but I really leant on the Macmillan Centre for help in that time; we used them for welfare help, receiving assistance from a lovely gentleman who made calls on our behalf, and afterwards I used the service again for grief counselling. I couldn’t have got through it without the Macmillan team.
“Although I’m in remission, my cancer will at some point come back so I will probably need them again. So, I’ve really had my money’s worth. That’s why I’m doing the hike, to try and give back, to try and keep the money pouring in.”
Eddy Harris, who was 58 when he died, was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in 2018.
She said. "He was full of life, always wanted to teach people and tried to make people better than themselves and very interested in people living their best lives.
"He had a very great sense of humour."
The couple had been together for eight years after meeting at university as mature students where they were both studying aspects of health sciences. Mrs Harris had studied nutrition while Mr Harris was doing sports science.
Mrs Harris said both she and her husband got cancer though they ate well and were very active.
They celebrated their third wedding anniversary in St Nicholas Hospice Care in Bury St Edmunds.
To give back to the help she received she also took part in Cancer Research UK's Race For Life and St Nicholas Hospice Care's Girls Night Out.
"I also volunteered for Macmillian at West Suffolk Hospital but I'm back at work now so that's proved tricky," she said.
The mum-of-three daughters also hopes to start riding a motorbike soon as she caught "the bug" from her dad, who also died of cancer.
"I'm just trying to make the most out of life," she said.
"It shook me up a lot and made me realise you can do something."
She also hopes to raise awareness for incurable cancer that "people live with" rather than die of or be cured of the disease.
Since the treatment, she has been tired and it feels like her energy has been sapped.
Often she has to pace herself doing simple tasks.
In her spare time, she paints and goes for walks in the countryside.
Mrs Harris has raised more than £1,260 on Just Giving, which her work Ipswich Building Society will double, by doing the Suffolk Macmillan Hike.
To donate go to justgiving.com/fundraising/michelle-harris44.
For information, support or just someone to talk to, call 0808 808 00 00 or visit macmillan.org.uk.
If you know someone who is a community hero please email firstname.lastname@example.org.