Fell walker feels on top of the world thanks to CancerCare!

on Tuesday, 24 March 2015.

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Health and fitness has always been a huge part of local fell walker Jacqueline Hardaker’s life so when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer back in 2013 her entire world was set to turn upside down.

jackie5Within just 2 weeks of receiving her devastating diagnosis, the 63 year old Staveley resident was forced to hang up her walking boots, cancel a dream trip to the Himalayas and undergo major surgery to remove one of her breasts and lymph nodes.

 “Instead of flying out to Nepal to start a very special trekking holiday I found myself at the start of what turned out to be the hardest 16 months of my life.”

Jacqueline however was determined not going to let cancer get in her way.

“Since I was a child I’ve always loved walking and mountains so when I retired a few years ago I decided to move to the Lake District so that I could be closer to the fells.”

 “After my diagnosis I thought that if I kept my fitness levels up during and after my treatment then I’d be in with a fighting chance of getting through it. In fact, three days after my surgery I was out on Scout Scar - I felt like nothing would stop me!”

But when Jacqueline started Chemotherapy treatment she soon realised she had underestimated the impact it would have on her health.

“Chemotherapy was so difficult – in the end I had to have 6 rounds over 5 months. I had no energy some days which was hugely frustrating for someone as active as me.”

“Even getting to hospital for my Radiotherapy was so stressful because I had to do 90 mile round trips to Preston and back each week by myself.”

“But somehow I got through it and still managed to drag myself out on the hills! I remember being out on Haystacks in Buttermere and pulling out masses of clumps of hair from my head and apologising out loud to Wainwright for making such a mess!”

“I also lost all my eyelashes and eyebrows which meant sweat and water streamed from my eyes down my face every time I went out.”

jackie2 “I knew treatment would be hard physically, but I also hadn’t prepared myself for the emotional side of things. The NHS team were great but they couldn’t give me all the support I needed.”

“If you don’t have a good support network around you then it can be especially tough. I certainly didn’t - I live alone and my family live down south. I remember having to attend the appointment by myself when I was first diagnosed.”

Jacqueline’s Breast Care Nurse at the Hospital suggested getting in touch with CancerCare to help her through her ordeal.

“CancerCare were great. They offered me free services including Hypnotherapy, Alexander Technique and Aromatherapy Massage and also put me in touch with a local support group. The weekly Aromatherapy sessions were especially relaxing because I had lost all my hair through Chemo so it was so nice having my head and neck massaged. That made such a big difference to me.”

CancerCare provide a wide range of free professional support services for local people affected by cancer & life limiting conditions at their Kendal & Lancaster centres including Counselling and a specialist Children and Young People’s Service for children as young as three.

Jacqueline continues, “I’ve also met lots of new people through CancerCare - just being able to talk to other people who have lived through the same experiences as me has been really inspiring.”

 “Once you have your treatment you’re expected to be ‘better’ but it’s often the time when you struggle the most. Post-surgery and treatment is also the time when you begin to worry about the cancer coming back. I didn’t really have anyone to talk to before I came to CancerCare.”

To help support her ongoing recovery Jacqueline now attends a local Circle Dancing group, has started swimming sessions at the Sandgate Pool and also works out three times a week at the Vault Gym in Kendal.

jackieinthealps

Jackie in the Alps before her diagnosis

“All my treatment is finished now although I still have to take daily medication for the next 5 years. I do feel much more tired than I used to and my immunity is really low. Of course I have really dark days and I do find it a real struggle to even get out of my armchair sometimes. However, it’s so important to set yourself goals. You’ve got to have a reason to keep on going!”

Jacqueline’s next goal will be walking 15k at CancerCare’s StarWalk event in Kendal on Saturday May 9th.

“CancerCare offer fantastic services but I was really shocked to hear that they hardly get any Government funding so doing the StarWalk will be my way of giving something back. I’ve already managed to raise over £850 but I’d love to get some more sponsors!”

Jacqueline is also using the StarWalk to help train for her next high altitude adventure to Peru in June and is also planning to return to Nepal later in the year.

“It’s going to be tough on my knees but I’m looking forward to the challenge and I’m more determined than ever to do it!”

Show your support for local people like Jackie who have been affected by cancer or a life limiting condition by signing up to this year's StarWalk event on May 9th!

Or sponsor Jacqueline by visiting her online fundraising page at www.justgiving.com/Jacqueline-Hardaker.