DONNA Callon doesn’t look like a typical magistrate, but the 34-year-old is fulfilling a long-term ambition of sitting on the bench.
As a JP at Blackpool Magistrates Court, the mum-of-two hears stories of other people’s lives all the time. But not many would know about her own story.
Her positive outlook, sunny disposition and healthy appearance hides the fact that just two years ago, she was given the devastating news she had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
After suffering a persistent tickly cough and shortness of breath, she went to see her GP and was sent to the hospital for tests.
She said: “I didn’t think it would be serious. I thought it wouldn’t take long at the hospital, but I walked in there and didn’t come home for three weeks.
“It did come as a shock, because I was a fit, healthy, active person.
“I worked full-time, ran round after the children, never smoked, rarely drank, kept myself fit, went to the gym, I was never ill. I couldn’t believe this had happened to me.”
Donna, of Newton Drive, Blackpool, firstly had to have vital cardiac surgery because the tumour had caused a problem with her heart.
She had her first chemotherapy on Christmas Eve. After that, came radiotherapy.
Donna, whose daughters Grace and Emily were just nine and 11 when she was diagnosed, said being ill gave her time to think and re-evaluate her life.
“There’s not much to do when you are spending so much time in hospital, other than think.
“I decided to resign from my job – I worked as a local government officer at the county council. While I really enjoyed it, I felt being in an office for the rest of my career wasn’t what I wanted.
“Life is too short and the illness just gave me the motivation and push.
“I started my own business and became a magistrate. And I spend more time with my children.
“I’m a people person through and through and being a magistrate was something which always interested me.
“I think people have this image of magistrates being retired men in suits, but people of any age and any background are welcomed. It’s really worthwhile.”
Donna, now in remission, is looking forward to Christmas with her family.
“I’m a positive person and my attitude was basically ‘let’s treat this, then I can go home and get back to my life’.
“My children’s schools were wonderful and so was my partner Carter Jackson – who has since proposed.
“Macmillan were a great help, especially introducing me to others in similar situations.
“At Christmas in 2009, I had to get people to buy my presents for me, and I’m just really looking forward to this Christmas and New Year.”
Donna hopes her story might help give others hope, especially as a new study of cancer survival figures by Macmillan Cancer Support found people now live nearly six times longer after their cancer diagnosis than 40 years ago.
But the research shows progress has been patchy.
For 11 of the 20 cancers studied, median survival time is now predicted to be more than five years. But for nine cancers, median survival time is three years or less, with little improvement since the 1970s.
Donna said: “If you can describe anyone who’s had cancer as lucky, then I feel I have been. It was caught early, it was treatable.
“The treatment was gruelling and of course, it did affect my family and friends – and the worst bit for me was losing my hair.
“But there can be life after cancer.”