A Sleaford mum who was one of four members of her family diagnosed with cancer is now helping people spot the early signs of the disease and supporting those affected by it.
Linda James, 57, was diagnosed late with breast cancer in 2011 and had to undergo extensive surgery and chemotherapy as the disease had already begun to spread.
Against the odds, she survived and now travels the county giving presentations and training sessions as a volunteer with the Early Presentation of Cancer (EPOC) programme, which is part-funded by Macmillan Cancer Support to help people spot the early signs of cancer before it is too late.
Cancer has affected others in Linda’s family; her sister-in-law and cousin’s wife had breast cancer and her grandmother had ovarian cancer.
In addition to her EPOC volunteering, Linda has given her support to the Macmillan ‘Not Alone’ campaign in county to help the charity highlight the issue of isolation among people affected by cancer.
Linda first began to feel lonely when her treatment finished. She became depressed and found it difficult to return to work and pick up her old lifestyle. Coupled with that, her husband Tony was made redundant while she was still having treatment, so - about 18 months ago - they had to move away from family and friends.
She said: “All the time you’re under treatment, your life is being controlled. You just go from one appointment to the next. I didn’t have to make any decisions of my own. When treatment finished it hit me like a lead balloon.
“Having to pick my life up again on my own was a big shock.
“There’s a lot I can’t do anymore and I’m still suffering from the after effects of chemotherapy.”
Linda was supported by her husband and daughters throughout treatment, but could not find anyone else who had been through the same experience as her.
“All through my treatment I was trying to find someone who had gone through the same experience as me and couldn’t,” she said. “When we moved to Lincolnshire I didn’t know anyone and couldn’t find any support groups at that time. It was quite lonely. But then I found Macmillan and they were brilliant. I called the support line when I was at a low ebb. It was good to talk to someone who understood. They gave me direction and hope to carry on fighting.”
Through Macmillan, Linda found out about the EPOC programme and began volunteering, saying she ‘wanted to give something back and do what I could to prevent other people going through the same thing’.
Call Macmillan free on 0808 808 00 00 or visit macmillan.org.uk