Brave football coach Joanne Burke is back on the pitch after a battle with cancer and determined to save lives.
Her world was turned upside down after being diagnosed with the disease in February this year aged just 32. But support from family and friends kept her strong. And it was an emotional moment when Joanne returned to training with Parkmoor Girls FC- cheered on by her ten-year-old daughter, Nicole Hawthorn who is a proud member of the under 11 team.
Now Joanne and her football pals are swapping their traditional maroon and blue club colours for orange tutus and stripey socks to help launch in Scotland Stand Up To Cancer, a joint fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4. The team is tackling the ‘unpredictable dress up’ challenge, where supporters pay or get sponsored to wear something completely unexpected for a day at work, school or home to help raise vital funds.
Joanne of Erksine, Renfrewshire who will complete treatment for breast cancer with radiotherapy sessions next month after enduring chemotherapy and surgery is sharing her remarkable story to boost awareness and inspire Scots to raise some cancer-crushing cash.
Photo: Joanne Burke with her daughter Nicole Hawthorn
Joanne, now 33, said: “I can’t begin to explain how lucky I actually feel.
“From the second I was told I had cancer I vowed I’d be cancer free for Christmas and that’s exactly where I am now. I haven’t cried. Around one in seven women will get breast cancer in their lifetime so right from the start I decided I was glad to be that statistic. If it was me who was that one in seven then hopefully that meant the people I love the most would escape breast cancer.
“Some amazing people have kept me smiling through it all. I started helping out with football coaching when my daughter joined the Parkmoor team and it’s great to be back with them all again.
“When it comes to cancer, there can’t be any by-standers. We’re proud to pull up our socks,
kick off the fundraising effort and proudly shout, ‘Let’s beat cancer at its own game.’”
But Joanne vividly recalls her uncertainty at the start of this year when she first found a lump in her right breast. She had become more body conscious after losing weight and knew it was important to get the lump checked out. After a biopsy and mammogram at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley, Joanne was told on February 28 this year that she had cancer. Sharing the news with her partner, Alastair Hawthorn, 51, as well as her mum and sisters was tough. To help her ten-year-old daughter Nicole understand what cancer meant, Joanne bought the comic book, ‘Medikidz explain breast cancer’ which is specially designed for youngsters
Joanne said: “I was open and honest with my daughter Nicole right from the word go.
“There’s no point in trying to hide anything from my daughter as she’s too switched on. Nicole is an independent wee soul and I was blown away by how she handled everything. Very soon, Nicole was saying things like, ‘I can make my own packed lunch for school Mum if you’re tired. She even offered to take the dog out for a walk.
“Nicole was determined to help me. My partner Alastair was amazing too. His mindset was very matter of fact. It was like, ‘right, this has happened and we’ll get through it together.’”
When Joanne’s hair started falling out after the first chemotherapy treatment in April, Alastair helped shave the rest off. Joanne had six chemotherapy treatments in total at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow. Joanne who is an operations manager for G4s Secure Solutions which provides security for top sports and music events across Scotland said her work mates were brilliant. They even raised £3,909 for Cancer Research UK in her honour by taking part in Race for Life Glasgow in May.
After a family holiday in Cyprus this summer, Joanne had surgery to remove what remained of the tumour on August 28. She now takes the breast cancer drug Herceptin every three weeks and will start radiotherapy treatment in October.
In Scotland, around four people every hour are diagnosed with cancer.* Stand Up To Cancer unites scientists, celebrities and communities across the UK, raising money to take developments from the lab and transform them, quickly, into brand new tests and treatments.
The campaign is supported by a host of stars including Davina McCall, Alan Carr, Maya Jama, Greg Rutherford and Joe Lycett.
Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman for Scotland said: “By supporting Stand Up To Cancer, people will be helping to fund game-changing research, to make a huge difference to cancer patients and their families.
“There’s been amazing progress in the past few decades and more people are surviving cancer than ever before. But one in two of us in the UK will develop the disease at some point in our lifetime. That’s why we need as many people as possible to get involved. There’s power in numbers and if we all work together we can defeat anything, even cancer.
“We’d like to thank Joanne, Nicole and all at Parkmoor Girls FC for their colourful support. We hope their transformation will inspire people across Scotland to find their own fun way to raise money.
“Whether it’s accountants transforming into punks, police officers dressing as burglars or teachers donning school uniforms, the unpredictable dress up is a fun and easy way to get involved and raise money.”
Since it was launched in the UK in 2012, Stand Up To Cancer has raised over £62 million to fund 52 pioneering clinical trials and research projects.
Right now, scientists are developing new tactics to boost the immune system’s ability to take out cancer cells. They’re creating cutting-edge technologies to detect cancer cells in the blood, which could transform the way cancer is diagnosed. And they’re using MRI to turn radiotherapy into a more precise, personalised and powerful anti-cancer weapon.
People can get involved in Stand Up To Cancer’s fortnight of fundraising from October 11-25 by requesting a free fundraising pack. They can choose to fundraise in their own way or pick from a host of fun-filled ideas, like the unpredictable dress up challenge, which will help to speed up life-saving research.
And for those who want to show their support for the campaign in style, a fun range of clothing and accessories is also available online.
This autumn will also see a dedicated season of Stand Up To Cancer programming on Channel 4.
To get involved visit su2c.org.uk