Scots woman fronts Cancer Research campaign

Helen today
Helen today
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A SCOTTISH woman who starred in the opening ceremony of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games weeks after completing treatment for cancer is encouraging other people to get checked early for signs of the illness.

Helen Watson is backing Cancer Research UK’s ‘Spot Cancer Sooner’ campaign which runs across Scotland throughout November.

As a cervical cancer survivor, Helen of Renfrew, knows exactly how vital it is to detect cancer early.

She visited her GP for a check up last spring after experiencing irregular bleeding and feeling unusually exhausted. It was a shock on March 11 last year when tests revealed Helen had cancer. But she raised more than £1,800 for Cancer Research UK by taking part in the Race for Life Glasgow- just 24 hours before starting chemotherapy treatment. And Helen fought back to health in time to take part in the opening and closing ceremonies of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games broadcast before a worldwide audience of more than five million people last July.

Helen, 56, said: “I loved every minute of being part of the Commonwealth Games and was determined that no one and not even cancer would take that away from me.

“After eight weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, I had just two weeks to prepare myself for my first Commonwealth Games rehearsal. I got out of bed for the first time in two days and struggled to get there but by the time I went home that same day I was as high as a kite. My fabulous dance partner was so understanding and stuck with me through it all, even when it felt tough. There were tears at the closing ceremony of the Games. I cried tears of relief after everything I had been through.”

Helen at her last chemo session in June 2014

Helen at her last chemo session in June 2014

Helen- who has check ups every six months but is now clear of cancer- jetted off on a trip of a lifetime to Australia with her husband Bryan, 52, to celebrate her return to health. But Helen misses every day her own mum, Catherine Rankin who died aged 51 from breast cancer.

Helen said: “I was just 17 when I lost my mum to cancer but I know that treatments have moved on so much since then.

“Research has helped save millions of lives. I’m backing Cancer Research UK’s Spot Cancer Sooner campaign because I want to encourage people to get to know their own bodies so they can tell when something changes and get it checked out. I got through cancer thanks to a wonderful husband, fabulous friends and a great medical team. During my first chemotherapy session, Gloria Gaynor’s classic song, ‘I will Survive’ came on the radio and that said it all. Exactly a year after I was told I had cancer I was with my husband walking along four miles of beach next to palm trees in Australia. The good times do come back but it’s so important to get any unusual or persistent changes to your body checked out by a doctor early.”

Designed to show how easy it is for people to ignore changes in their body while they get on with their busy lives, the new Cancer Research UK tv ad shows a ‘lump’ in a road gradually getting bigger while office workers, mums, cyclists and road cleaners seem oblivious to the change and the disruption it causes.

During my first chemotherapy session, Gloria Gaynor’s classic song, ‘I will Survive’ came on the radio and that said it all.

Helen Watson, cervical cancer survivor

Eventually the bump becomes so big that people have to walk around it but, despite this, still ignore it. Finally, in a poignant moment at the end, one person acknowledges its presence and the

voice over says: “It’s easy to ignore something, especially when we’re busy. But spotting cancer sooner could save your life.”Striking outdoor poster adverts will also feature in prominent locations across Scotland including train stations, bus stops and shopping centres.

Every year, around 30,200 people in Scotland are given the devastating news that they have cancer.

Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK spokeswoman in Scotland, said: “Helen is a fantastic ambassador for our Spot Cancer Sooner campaign. She knows from personal experience just how important early diagnosis can be.

Helen at the Commonwealth Games with judo medal winning twins Fiona and Donna Robertson

Helen at the Commonwealth Games with judo medal winning twins Fiona and Donna Robertson

“Cancer Research UK’s ‘Spot Cancer Sooner’ campaign encourages people to reflect on their own behaviour and empowers them to be more in touch with what’s normal for their bodies.

“There are many possible signs of cancer, it’s not just about lumps. What our new campaign aims to bring home to people is that it is good to be aware of changes to their bodies and to get them checked out. Most cases of cancer are in people over 50, but anyone can develop the disease. We hope the adverts will prompt anyone who notices an unusual or persistent change to their body to go and see their GP.

“It may well not be anything serious, in which case getting checked will give peace of mind. But if it does turn out to be cancer, finding it early could make all the difference.

“They can also pick up the phone to one of our Cancer Research UK information nurses and discuss any concerns confidentially.”

For more information visit www.cruk.org/spotcancersooner or ring Cancer Research UK’s information nurses on 0808 800 4040.

Spot Cancer Sooner campaign poster

Spot Cancer Sooner campaign poster

Helen's parents, Catherine and Thomas Rankin. Catherine died from breast cancer

Helen's parents, Catherine and Thomas Rankin. Catherine died from breast cancer

Helen at the Race 4 Life in May 2014

Helen at the Race 4 Life in May 2014

Helen and Bryan Watson on their wedding day

Helen and Bryan Watson on their wedding day