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“Volunteering felt like stepping into living again”: Jenny’s breast cancer experience

Every Wednesday, Jenny Scowcroft can be found at Yorkshire Cancer Research’s shop in Skipton. She has volunteered at the shop since it opened earlier this year, and for her, it has been “a way to step back into living again”.

Jenny in the Skipton Yorkshire Cancer Research shop

Jenny was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, after going to her doctor with back pain. She was sent for further tests and was told that her cancer was incurable.

She explained: “I went to see my GP after experiencing back pain, and they immediately referred me for further tests. By the end of the day, they’d seen something on my spine and that was it. They then told me that I had breast cancer.

“When I was diagnosed, my prognosis was that I had two years to live. That was five years ago now. I’m very aware of how lucky I am to be here.”

The former social worker was given chemotherapy, and after a break from treatment, she was given an oral form of chemotherapy to help slow the spread of the cancer.

Jenny moved to Skipton from Wales with her husband five years ago, looking for more time to spend walking and exploring the Yorkshire countryside in their retirement. It was only two months later that Jenny was told she had cancer.

She continued: “When we moved, we left behind everything we knew and all our friends, so it was a very lonely time. I was diagnosed and then had some of my treatment through Covid, so when things began to settle down a little bit, I thought ‘I’m still here, let’s get on with living’.”

Jenny noticed an advert asking for volunteers in Skipton, and she jumped at the chance to be involved in the opening of one of the charity’s biggest shops.

“When I saw the advert, I already knew I wanted to volunteer somewhere, and this was an opportunity to volunteer for something that feels worthwhile and personal to me. I’ve benefitted from research, so I’m paying something back.

Shop volunteer

“Coming into the shop was a way for me to step back into living again. The team are a lovely group of people, and everybody is willing to help everybody else. It’s really nice to be part of a community again.”

For Jenny, working alongside volunteers who have also had experiences of cancer has helped her feel supported throughout her own diagnosis and treatment.

She continued: “It feels like you’re on your own, until you realise that all these other people have gone through what you’re going through.

“I sometimes feels guilty telling people ‘I have terminal cancer’ because people can be shocked and don’t know how to react, so being among people who understand is really nice.”

Jenny is not the only person in her family to have been diagnosed with cancer. Her grandson was treated for leukaemia when he was 15, and her son-in-law was treated for bowel cancer.

She said: “Cancer has touched a lot of people in my family, and it’s been really hard. As you walk past people in the street, so many of them will have had cancer or have someone close to them who has experienced cancer.

“It’s not a rare thing to have families like mine, who have several members who have had cancer. It’s something we all need to be aware of, and it reminds us why it’s so important to support the work of charities like Yorkshire Cancer Research.”

Jenny in the Yorkshire Cancer Research shop in Skipton

Every 17 minutes someone is diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire

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