My Life was Saved by CancerCare!

on Thursday, 22 January 2015.

doreenAn interview with CancerCare volunteer Doreen Challenger (this article was  published in the Morecambe Visitor newspaper in December 2014)

As a part of a series celebrating Morecambe’s Finest, the personalities and unsung heroes who make our town great, reporter GEMMA SHERLOCK speaks to DOREEN CHALLENGER, who’s life was turned around by charity CancerCare after losing her husband.

When a Morecambe great-grandmother decided to volunteer after losing her beloved husband to stomach cancer it saved her life and gained her some life-long friends in the process.

Doreen Challenger said CancerCare “saved my life” after she lost her husband Eric in January 1995.

Eric was 66 years old when we passed away, leaving Doreen, 81, alone at their home in Altham Road.

But Doreen was persuaded to try the drop-in centre at CancerCare and hasn’t looked back since.

The grandmother of ten volunteered at the drop in sessions and their charity shop in Pedder Street, Morecambe[JE1] , for 15 years.

Although Doreen is no retiring she is thankful she made the right decision all those years ago.

She said: “I was first introduced to the CancerCare group by a friend after losing my husband to cancer many years ago. She suggested I come along and meet the other members and I’m so glad I did.”

Doreen has lived in Morecambe for 64 years and was married for 41 years; the couple were looking forward to starting their retirement together.

But shortly after they retired Eric passed away in Lancaster’s St John’s Hospice.

“A lot of people think you only go into the hospice to die but you don’t, as I say we were unlucky, but it’s a lovely place,” says Doreen.

Eric was reluctant to go into hospital during his cancer battle but agreed to go to the Slyne Road hospice for respite care.

Doreen said: “It was hard work for me because I also had my mother who was ill at the same time but he didn’t argue. He just went in for respite but unfortunately he didn’t come out.”

During this time Doreen also lost her twin grandchildren.

She said: “What made it worse for us was that my youngest daughter lost twins, so it was like a double tragedy to us.”

Doreen made the decision to retire this year for some valuable “me time.”

She said: “I just didn’t see any point in keeping on going really because there are only six of us now. My health is failing so I just felt it was time to have a little me time.”

Over the years Doreen has helped many achieve their ‘bucket list’ wishes including cruises and trips to the Orient Express.

The grandmother has come a long way since she moved to the area and met her husband Eric, who was a labourer for 20 years.

Their holiday romance blossomed and the pair were inseperable ever since.

Doreen said: “It was a holiday romance, but I remember our first date he stood me up! But it was awkward because I wasn’t a Morecambrian and as soon as I moved here I was courting so I never made any friends of my own. My daughter said when I first started CancerCare ‘mother you have more friends now than what you would have had if my dad was alive’. So if I didn’t join CancerCare what would I have done?”

CancerCare host a number of drop in groups which provide support, help and information to those living with cancer and life limiting conditions , their families and their carers. The charity was set up more than 30 years ago and started out as a small volunteer-led telephone helpline service based office within the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.