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Heather Capewell-Hughes

Heather decided to volunteer for Lingen Davies after undergoing her own cancer diagnosis, and it has given her a whole new lease of life…

Just two days after discovering a lump in her neck Heather was in front of her GP...

I found a lump in my neck in December 2019 following having a cough for a month which I hadn’t really been too bothered about. I called the GP to ask for an appointment but I was really concerned so I drove to the medical practice and asked to be seen there and then, which fortunately I was. It was just two days between finding the lump and seeing my GP.

I saw the GP and then within a week I was in front of the consultant having a biopsy. Stage three Throat Cancer was diagnosed and within a month treatment began. I had an operation in January with another one in the February, they did a Bilateral tonsillectomy, selective neck dissection, pan-endoscopy and laser surgery.


Treatment began before the outbreak of the Covid pandemic ...

Pre-covid I walked into the Lingen Davies Cancer Centre and the waiting room was full of patients, their families and friends supporting them. As covid emerged it was very different quite quickly, much quieter, at least it was easier to park!

I had six months out of work as an Occupational Therapist and I was guilt-ridden thinking about what my colleagues were going through. I’ve worked for the NHS for several decades and this was a major event that I wasn’t there for. I wanted to support my colleagues and friends working in health at that time.

It was a tough time for everyone, for patients it was hard, the support services in the Hamar Centre had closed down. It was very lonely, there were no support groups running, everything had just shut down. Nobody really knew what was happening.

Going through it as a medical professional made me angry, I was angry after giving my life to the NHS and helping other people, and I thought ‘why me?’ but then ‘why not me?’

I had pretty brutal side effects from my radiotherapy treatment. Apart from the loss of my taste and smell, eating was eventually nearly impossible, I didn’t want to be in social situations because I just couldn’t really eat or drink. I lost a stone and a half during my treatment but was determined not to have a PEG fitted. Thank goodness for supplements. The skin on my neck burnt but that’s a small price to pay.

Heather returned to work in July 2020 but had to have another operation in October – thankfully the results concluded a new lump was benign

Now I’m living ‘cancer-free’. I have no ongoing medication apart from thyroid tablets. It’s measured from the last day of treatment so it will be three years in April (2023) since I finished my treatment. I have three-monthly check ups and feel very nervous before each appointment. Even before Covid happened I deliberately went on my own for some consultations and treatment so I only had to think about me, I couldn’t cope making sure everyone else was ok. I sometimes made the wrong decisions on that one.

Now an active member of the Shrewsbury Fundraising Committee, Heather has also had training to support our LiveLife Cancer Awareness team.

I really want to help, and I love everything about the ethos of the LiveLife work for promoting the importance of early diagnosis, it’s so important. I enjoy volunteering, I thought it would be a case of Lingen Davies thanking me, but if anything I am thanking them.

I’m really passionate about cancer screening and early diagnosis. Screening and health checks are so important to beating cancer.

I went early to see the Doctor, I didn’t want to wait and literally went as soon as I found the lump in my neck. I just think if I hadn’t gone to the Doctors that day the outcome could have been so different.

Volunteering allows me to dip in and out when time allows

Standing in the middle of a field at a colour run, attending a beautiful ball, dancing in Shrewsbury Quarry whilst discussing the importance of sun cream! … Where else and for who else would these events ever make sense!

Volunteering for Lingen Davies was my way of ‘giving something back’ but it has given back to me, more than I realised it would.

As I work for the NHS (and have done for more than three decades!) I was fearful of additional commitments, but the volunteering has allowed me to dip in and out when time allows, creating a fantastic balance.

It has been a great way to meet new people and I thoroughly recommend giving it a go. Everybody has reasons why they are involved but we all have the same goal.