Courage of the ladies behind Relay for Life

Relay for Life committee members Paula Watson and Rita Butcher
Relay for Life committee members Paula Watson and Rita Butcher

After surviving her own personal fight against cancer Paula Watson was determined to help others facing a similar fate.

She had undergone a partial lumpectomy on her breast, endured debilitating chemotherapy and had passed the magic five mile post, five years since first being diagnosed, and was feeling well and healthy.

She was determined to give something back and help others, and had become one of the founding members of Relay For Life Aylesbury, helping to raise thousands of pounds for Cancer Research UK each year.

Then one day the cancer returned. From her home in Fairford Leys Paula, 60, said: “The whole process kicked off again. It was the same breast, what they call a local reoccurance, something obviously didn’t work properly the first time around. I had a mastectomy this time. I am fairly philosophical, it’s the deck I’ve been dealt, I just have to get on with it.”

But that is not where the story ends. Soon afterwards a cancerous lump was found in Paula’s neck and removed, and then she was found to have cancer in the groin.

“I won’t be having any more chemotherapy,” she said. “I have three monthly scans and the growth of the cells in the groin is small, so I am having no aggressive treatment, just hormonal. We will watch and wait to see if the tumour grows. There are no symptoms, I’m not in any pain, so life goes on, but under the shadow that I have terminal cancer.

“You can put it to the back of your mind, but it does make you value everything you hold dear. Holidays are much more important, my husband Bob stopped fulltime work because of it, and we see a great deal more of our grandchildren. This sort of thing stops you sweating about the small stuff, it changes your attitude.”

One thing it hasn’t stopped is Paula’s commitment to Relay For Life Aylesbury and although she has downsized her participation she is still on the committee and will be taking part with her family and close friends in The Proper Wallies team.

The event, which will be held over 24 hours at Aylesbury Rugby Club in Weston Turville from noon on Saturday July 6 until noon the following day, is now in its fifth year. It kicks off with a Jazzercise warm-up, a lap of honour by cancer survivors and then the introduction of all the teams, with their madcap names and bright outfits. Throughout the daylight hours and over night fundraisers lap the track in honour of cancer survivors and those who have lost the fight.

Rita Butcher, 64, is a founder committee member following her daughter Lisa’s battle with the disease.

In the summer of 2006 Lisa, a young wife and mother preparing to move into a new house, found a lump in her breast which turned out to be cancer. She was seen very quickly by doctors and told on the same day that she had cancer and was also pregnant.

Mrs Butcher said: “Stoke Mandeville Hospital was brilliant, it seemed like she had half of their personnel looking after her in different departments.”

Lisa had a lumpectomy operation but chemotherapy was deferred until after her baby girl Rebecca was induced at 36 weeks. Mrs Butcher said: “She got through that and she’s now done her five years on the hormonal drug aimed at stopping cancer cells reproducing. So touch wood we are fine.”

These ladies, others like them, their families and friends will join together in July to support a worthwhile charity. If you want to join in and build a team go to www.relayforlifeaylesbury.org or call 01296 486468.