A young mum who has been living with cancer for nearly three years is backing a special event for people affected by the disease.
And Sarah Colledge, 37, will be speaking in the Houses of Parliament next month, on behalf of other cancer patients.
The Blackpool mum-of-two says the Cancer Listening Event in Blackpool, on September 22, is of great importance – as it will give local residents chance to shape the future of services.
The event has been organised by Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Macmillan Cancer Support.
Sarah – who has a daughter Eve, 11, and a son, William, 14 – believes patients and carers need to let people in authority know what they need.
Sarah’s partner and carer, Kenny Bullock, is also supporting the event, which will give carers a chance to share their experiences.
Organisers of the event want to hear from as many people as possible, to help make a difference to support services.
Sarah said when she first became ill in 2012, there were various issues with the care she received. It took nearly a year for her to get a clear diagnosis, and she felt as if she wasn’t being listened to by her GP.
She said: “It felt as if nobody wanted to know, at first. I was banging my head against a brick wall.
“Patients should always be taken seriously. Doctors need to think: ‘If that was my mother or daughter, what would I do?’”
After Sarah persisted, she was devastated to be told she needed extensive surgery for a large cancerous mass in her abdomen, which had spread to various parts of her body.
She says she is now receiving excellent care from a new GP, medics in Blackpool and a surgeon in Preston – but feels the outcome might have been different, if she had been listened to much earlier.
The trust’s Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) was particularly helpful to Sarah, and she advises any patient having difficulties to contact PALS.
Sarah said: “They sorted it out within a few days. They were really good. I got referred to a brilliant consultant and it all took off from there.
“I had an operation and reconstructive surgery in 2013. It was major surgery. If PALS had not sorted it out, I don’t think I would be here now.
“After about six months, I was snowboarding again.”
However, Sarah’s cancer returned recently and further surgery is not possible.
Sarah said: “It’s too much of a risk to have further surgery, but I’m a believer in taking vitamins and holistic treatments, and a recent scan showed the cancer had regressed.
“My prognosis is not good, but I just try to forget about it and carry on. I set myself goals and look forward to things.”
Sarah, who recently officially started Blackpool’s Race for Life, says events such as Cancer Listening in Blackpool help give patients a voice.
She added: “It’s hugely important you’re listened to as a patient.”
She will also be giving her message to MPs, when she speaks in the Houses of Parliament, on September 9, about the support available for cancer patients in the North West.
Deborah Loftus, cancer lead for the trust, said: “We are trying to reach as many patients and carers as possible with our event.
“It will be an open space event, so everyone will have a chance to speak.
“We would like patients and carers to be involved in developing our new five-year strategy.”
To attend the event in Blackpool, which will run 11.30am to 4.15pm, call (01253) 957144 or email Kimberley.firstname.lastname@example.org
Application forms are available from PALS on (01253) 955588.