A brave mum who will be guest of honour at Race For Life Blackpool is calling on local women to join her.
Cancer survivor Maxine Turley, of Poulton, says she’s determined to help bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.
The mum-of-two, is encouraging other mums, daughters, sisters and friends to unite to help beat the disease by entering the Race for Life 5k or 10k events on Blackpool Promenade, on Wednesday, July 5.
A Race for Life Pretty Muddy event will also be held – at Lawson’s Showground, on September 23.
Maxine, a clerical worker with a stockbrokers’ firm, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma – a rare type of cancer, in 1984 when she was only 12 years old.
Doctors initially thought a lump on her left eyelid was caused by an allergy, but when the lump did not go away and was eventually removed, it was found to be cancerous.
Maxine received radiotherapy and 18 months of intense chemotherapy, which caused all of her hair to fall out.
She made a good recovery, but still has vivid memories of the treatment during her formative years.
Maxine, 45, who is married to Martin, a building surveyor, said: “It was a difficult age to be going through chemotherapy because at nearly 13, I was just about becoming aware of my appearance and then all my hair fell out.
“I felt I really stuck out from the crowd, which wasn’t nice.
“And there wasn’t much awareness about cancer in the early 1980s which didn’t help. I do remember the treatment being pretty unpleasant, but it was totally necessary and it saved my life. I’m so grateful for that.
“At one point doctors told my parents I had a 30 per cent chance of surviving, but here I am. I’m one of the lucky ones and proof that there is hope and there is a future.”
Maxine’s health remained good throughout her teens and 20s, but in her 30s she began to experience pain in her left eye.
Doctors advised Maxine the only way to stop the pain was to remove her left eye.
Maxine deliberated for some time and joined a waiting list for the surgery. But when she became pregnant with her first child, she decided to postpone.
Maxine had the operation in 2011, when her little boy Marcel was one year old.
Once the eye was removed, doctors realised it would be difficult to fit a prosthetic eye in the socket, because it had been damaged by the radiotherapy she received as part of her cancer treatment.
They did however manage to successfully fit Maxine with a prosthetic eye.
But in 2015, her eyelid retracted further, making it almost impossible for the false eye to stay in position.
By this point, Maxine had given birth to her second child, a little girl called Florentine.When Florentine was only three months old, Maxine had a skin graft taken from inside her lip to rebuild the eyelid, but it failed.
A further operation in October 2016 saw another graft from her lip taken to fill out the eyelid, which proved successful.
She was making a good and gradual recovery, but faced another blow over the New Year when she discovered she had developed lumps in her groin area.
Maxine was sent for blood tests and referred to The Christie.
Thankfully, tests showed the lumps were benign.
Maxine says is determined to keep going for one important reason – her children.
“I’ve been having all the surgery for my children.
“I don’t want their friends to stare at me, or for them to be teased for the way their mum looks.
“I want to look like the other mums at the school gates, for my children’s sake, not for mine.
I can totally live with it and in a way, I feel the way my eye looks is testament to what I’ve survived. Testament to the fact I’ve beaten cancer and I’m still here. But for my children, I want to look ‘normal’.”
Maxine has previously taken part in the Race For Life four times. This year she will be running the 10k course.
She said: “The problems I’m encountering today are all the side effects of my treatment.
“The radiotherapy really damaged my eye socket. Finding treatments that are kinder and have fewer side effects could mean that in the future other cancer survivors don’t face the same problems I did.”
Maxine is quick to point out she feels incredibly lucky to have beaten the disease, and still have sight in one eye.
“I know I had to face some difficult stuff when I was younger, but I honestly feel incredibly lucky to be here today.
“I was told it could be difficult for me to have children after chemotherapy, but I’m now mum to two children and have a fantastic life – it makes me incredibly grateful.
“I still have my sight in one eye and I’m thankful – I get to see my little ones grow up and enjoy all the wonderful moments that they bring.
“Cancer didn’t beat me. I’m a survivor and I remember that every single day.”
* Sign up for Race for Life at raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770.