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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Carlisle community champ role for cancer survivor Pat

Breast cancer survivor Pat Edgar has become one of Carlisle’s first community champions, dedicated to raising awareness of the disease in the local area.

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Pat Edgar: ’Talking to someone who has been through this does help’

The 67-year-old said it was “a fluke” that she was diagnosed with cancer – and now she wants to help others identify it before it spreads.

She is part of a new pilot project launched at Botcherby Community Centre to help everyone to get involved in raising awareness.

It has been set up by NHS Cumbria’s Carlisle Locality and Macmillan Cancer Support, with the support of Carlisle City Council.

The scheme aims to recruit and use volunteers – called Community Cancer Champions – to spread the word in their local area. If successful in Botcherby it will be rolled out across the city. Volunteers will be educated about early signs and symptoms of cancer so they can talk about them with people they meet on a daily basis.

Pat decided to sign up following her own experience of cancer and after discovering that it is responsible for approximately half of all premature deaths in Carlisle.

Having been in hospital for another operation and fighting off MRSA twice, Pat was planning to go down to Southampton to visit her brother for a break. But before she left she visited her GP at Fusehill Medical Centre to get more of her medication. This is how her breast cancer was diagnosed. “It was a fluke,” she said.

“I had been in hospital in March 2007 for my gallbladder operation and then had MRSA twice afterwards. All I could think about at the time was ‘I’m going to die’. But I got through this and in the August decided to have a break and go to stay with my brother.

“I was going to have to take my pills with me, so before I went I made an appointment to see my GP. She said she wanted to give me a full examination before I went, and it was then that she found the lump. It was a real shock. When I went home I was on my own and I just cried and cried. All I could think was ‘why me?’

A subsequent mammogram and needle biopsy confirmed it was cancer. It was followed by a three-week course of radiotherapy.

“I was very lucky that it had been caught so early.

“Talking to someone who has been through this does help. If I can help someone by sharing my experiences or listening to them I want to.”

Pat is a volunteer at Botcherby Community Centre, where she runs the coffee bar and luncheon club, making her ideally placed to spread the word about early diagnosis. To find out more call Helen Fisher at Botcherby Community Centre on 01228 596992.

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