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Helping Yorkshire Shine: Shiela Umpleby

For Shiela Umpleby, the festive season is an opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones, and since she was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, Christmases with her family have become even more special.

As part of their festive celebrations this year, Shiela, her husband Martin and sons Thomas and Isaac, have been ‘helping Yorkshire shine’ by supporting Yorkshire Cancer Research’s Christmas campaign.

Umbleby family standing in front of a Christmas tree with their Yorkshire Star dedications

“I wanted to be part of the campaign to make people aware that there is something they can do to show their support for people who have cancer like me, or people like my family who are supporting loved ones.

The campaign offers people across the region the chance to show their support for those affected by cancer this Christmas.

As well as donating to help fund world-leading research, people can also dedicate a ‘Yorkshire Star’ to celebrate someone who has recovered from cancer, thank those who have shown support, recognise someone going through treatment or remember a loved one.

Shiela said: “I’m dedicating my star to my husband Martin and my two boys for being so supportive and loving. The boys are very resilient and give me all the love they can.

“I wanted to be part of the campaign to make people aware that there is something they can do to show their support for people who have cancer like me, or people like my family who are supporting loved ones.

“Even though I know my cancer is incurable, I feel alive knowing that there are lots of people who are showing their support for people like me and for the work of the charity, you feel like you’re less alone. There’s a bit of hope.”

Decorative 'Yorkshire Star' hanging on a Christmas tree, with 'Mummy' handwritten on the front Shiela's sons hanging a decoration on a Christmas tree

Shiela, 46, first noticed a change in the shape of her breast while breast feeding her youngest son. After being referred for tests, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2021.

Shiela has a rare type of cancer called ‘inflammatory breast cancer’, which can spread quickly. Unfortunately, when Shiela was diagnosed, the cancer had spread to other parts of her body and she was told that the cancer was incurable.

This Christmas will be the third the family have celebrated since Shiela’s diagnosis.

She said: “The first Christmas after my diagnosis, I was still having chemotherapy and that was really difficult for the family.

“It was a struggle to make sure the boys were happy, and that it felt like it was still Christmas, and we could celebrate, rather than feeling sad because Mummy is poorly.

“Last year a friend raised funds so that we could go to the Philippines for Christmas to see my family, which was a very important trip for me. It was the first time I’d seen my family since my diagnosis, and it was very special to see them and be able to give them the hugs I’d been wanting to give for a long time.

“This Christmas we’re looking forward to a bit of normality, we’ll be spending it with family at home and will be giving lots of gifts to the little ones.”

Shiela and her family helped launch this year’s Christmas campaign at Rudding Park in Harrogate, where a special star is on display to help ‘shine a light’ on the vital research funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research in the region.

The star is made up of 600 individual lights to represent the 600 people who are diagnosed with cancer every week in Yorkshire. It will be available for visitor Rudding Park to visit throughout the festive season as part of the luxury hotel’s ‘follow the Christmas stars’ trail.

Shiela’s support for Yorkshire Cancer Research doesn’t end with Christmas. She has volunteered in the charity’s Harrogate shop for the past year and has found that it is an important way to take care of her mental wellbeing since her diagnosis.

She continued: “After my diagnosis, I didn’t feel like myself anymore. Since volunteering for Yorkshire Cancer Research, I’ve started to feel more like myself. Instead of my life revolving around hospital appointments, volunteering gives me and my family a bit of normality.”

Find out more about ‘helping Yorkshire shine’.