Scots woman finds meaning to cancer experience through charity work

Rosa at the Scotland vs Cancer campaign to ensure cancer patients have quick access to vital cancer tests.
Rosa at the Scotland vs Cancer campaign to ensure cancer patients have quick access to vital cancer tests.
Have your say

FOUR years after the death of her husband to the disease, Rosa Macpherson was diagnosed with cancer.

Following tests by her doctor, she was given the life altering news that she was in the early stages of uterine cancer.

Rosa at the Scotland vs Cancer campaign in Edinburgh

Rosa at the Scotland vs Cancer campaign in Edinburgh

The 59-year-old from Alloa credits her early diagnosis for allowing her the precious time she is now able to spend with her seven-month-old granddaughter Kasia.

Unlike her late husband George, Rosa was able to receive treatment while in stage one of the disease.

George’s symptoms went undetected until he was diagnosed at stage four in May 2004 by which time the lymphoma he had was so advanced that he died two months later, aged just 57-years-old.

Following her husband’s death and own cancer survival, Rosa began campaigning for Cancer Research UK.

READ MORE: Scots woman devastated after both parents diagnosed with cancer

“One of the main reasons for me getting involved was that it allowed me to add value and meaning to the experience I went through and the fact that my son lost his father”, she explains.

“It just added some significance to it.”

“Mine is an amazing story. Other people who have gone through cancer undergo months or even years of treatment. I was extremely lucky and I put that down entirely to early diagnosis.”

After noticing unusual symptoms in her body, Rosa approached her doctor who decided to do various tests to determine what was going on.

“At the time my mother had just died and I was approaching the menopause, so changes in my period could have easily slipped through the net”, she explains.

She was sent for a biopsy which discovered the cancer in early December. A few weeks later, she was given a radical hysterectomy meaning she wasn’t required to undergo chemotherapy or radiotherapy and spent only three days in hospital.

READ MORE: Alex Salmond and the trust he set up for his mum

“I went into full blown menopause following the removal of my womb, ovaries...everything. But it left me clear. I put it down to the fact to doctor had the time, listening skills and knowledge and she went through the process incase it was cancer.

“The processes would have cost the NHS money but they’ve saved a lot in having me treated early and through preventing the need for chemo and radio therapy, hospital stays, days off work, stress, pain, worry - all of that was removed because I was diagnosed early.”

Since becoming involved in the charity, which receives no government funding, the 59-year-old has been involved in various campaigns, most significantly, in the introduction of standardised cigarette packaging which was given the green light by Westminster politicians last year.

In doing so she was required to travel to London, campaign, do publicity stunts, co-ordinate Facebook and Twitter campaigns, write to MPs and collect petitions and signatures.

She’s now a part of the Big Tobacco Cough Up campaign which aims to encourage the Government to pass a law to make the tobacco industry pay to protect vital Stop Smoking Services and fund advertising campaigns to help people quit.

“What we say is that if an oil company has a big oil spill they’re forced to pay for that clean up. One out of two long term smokers will die from smoking, so what we’re asking is that tobacco companies that make money built on the deaths of of their customers should pay money to contribute to cure and treat the people they are killing.”

Ahead of George Osborne’s budget, the campaign collected over 16,000 petition signatures.

Rosa is one of many cancer survivors dedicating their time to preventing others go through to same turmoil.

“Using survivors in the campaign reminds politicians that the issues affect real people like me, my son who lost his father and my newborn granddaughter who will never know her grandfather”, she explains.

“Cancer affects the entire community. It needs political lobbying and support but it’s through political change that we can get the services we need for society.”

It’s due to her early diagnosis that Rosa was able to live to meet her granddaughter Kasia, who is now seven-months-old.

She says: “Her name is Kasia, but that’ the polish version of Katherine so it’s a way of keeping my Polish heritage alive. I can’t explain how amazing she is to me and how being around to be able to see this child and to see her change everyday feels - I can’t put it into words.”