Stafford cancer patient steps up to beat cancer
A hospital worker whose ‘million to one’ rare form of cancer was treated with pioneering proton beam therapy in Switzerland is set to step out for Cancer Research UK’s latest fundraising campaign Walk All Over Cancer.
Julie Hill, aged 49, from Stafford, is inviting men and women across the county to sign up now and get sponsored to walk 10,000 steps every day in March to support the charity’s life-saving research.
Julie, a grandmother of five, was diagnosed with chordoma - cancer of the bone at the back of the skull - in June 2014. Her consultant said her condition was so rare that the odds of getting it were a million to one.
By the time Julie was diagnosed the cancer had spread to the bone in her throat behind her nose.
She became the first person from north Staffordshire to be sent abroad for proton beam therapy after experts said the treatment was her only hope.
Julie, a care support worker at Stafford County Hospital, said: “I felt I had been hit with a death sentence. My world collapsed. No one knew anything about the cancer I had and no one could answer my questions. It was like living a nightmare. All I could think was that I had cancer in my head and I would die”.
After undergoing surgery in the UK Julie was accepted for proton beam therapy in Switzerland. She travelled firstly with partner Mark Wheawall to have a special mask made, then spent more than nine weeks away from home for the treatment. At first Julie was alone, but was joined later by daughter Vicky Pickford.
WATCH: Find out more about Julie's story
“It was extremely hard. I could not have got through the treatment without her,” said Julie. When Julie returned to the UK she spent time in a hospice receiving daily therapy and counselling to help her cope with the extreme anxiety her experience had caused. She still suffers from chronic fatigue but is back at work and strives to keep a positive attitude.
“I know my cancer is aggressive, and although proton beam therapy stunted it, it didn’t cure it. There are no other treatments available, so I am living on a knife-edge,” said Julie.
“I took part in Walk All Over Cancer last year and will be doing so again this year. That 10,000 steps a day is daunting because of my fatigue, but I’m determined to do it and I do believe it improves my health and fitness.
“I even bought an activity tracker last year so that I could share my step count on Facebook and people could see I wasn’t cheating. I don’t think they would have believed I could do it otherwise. I even managed to keep up my steps while I was on holiday in Lanzarote last year.
“For me it’s a way of giving something back. I do see a lot of oncology patients in the clinic I work in so it’s a constant reminder to keep enjoying my health while I’ve got it. Research is the only way we make progress.
"That’s why I’m encouraging everyone in Staffordshire to put on their walking shoes and step up to the Walk All Over Cancer challenge this March.”
Alongside raising funds for vital research, taking part in Walk All Over Cancer comes with many health benefits. Being more active can help people maintain a healthy weight, which can have a big impact on the risk of 13 different types of cancer.
Walking 10,000 steps at a brisk pace could burn roughly 500 calories – the same as five slices of Margarita pizza.
Jane Redman, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson for Staffordshire, said: “We’d love to see everyone in Staffordshire sign up now and get ready to Walk All Over Cancer in March. Participants can take part on their own or with friends, family and colleagues. Adding your favourite music or walking to a beauty spot can be a good incentive to get the steps in.
“10,000 steps per day can seem like quite a challenge for many people. Some of us spend our lives transferring from seat to seat - whether that’s driving to work, sitting at a desk or enjoying a boxset on the sofa. But adopting small lifestyle changes – like taking the stairs or going for a stroll at lunchtime - can quickly up the step count.“Every day, around 85 people are diagnosed with cancer in Staffordshire and the West Midlands. Cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress.
“Taking part in Walk All Over Cancer is a great way for local people to support a great cause. Every stride taken, and every donation made, will help fund Cancer Research UK’s ground-breaking research to find ways to save more lives.”
To sign up go online to www.cruk.org/walkallover