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Tracey lives life to the full in support of Chemotherapy unit

Having spent a year undergoing treatment for cancer, Tracey Hutchison is making up for the time she lost and using her new perspective on life to do things she wouldn't previously have dreamed of - including a recent hike to Machu Picchu in Peru.  Not only has Tracey had the adventure of a lifetime, she's also raised over £1k for a cause very close to her heart - the appeal to expand the Chemotherapy Day Unit at University Hospital of North Durham.

Tracey Hutchinson

Tracey explains, "I am so grateful for the excellent care I've received  - scans, operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but there were times when it felt like I was being carried along on a 'cancer tidal wave'.  I can honestly say though, that during my year-long treatment there was more laughter than tears.  Having been reminded that life is precious, I worry less and am much more confident. So I'm using my new philosophy to get out there and live life to the full! 

 "I'm determined to make up for the time I lost during treatment, pursuing adventure whilst also playing my part in creating a much bigger Chemotherapy Day Unit at University Hospital of North Durham.  Raising money by trekking to Machu Picchu felt like a great way to fuel my own new desire to get out there - I'd never previously been further than Greece! I've brought back some amazing memories.  The hike itself was tough and the altitude meant I had to stop every ten steps or so to catch my breath.  But I was with a fantastic group of people, we were all supporting each other - I have never felt comradeship quite like it.  It was also so beautiful, it was as though I was on a film set and the mountains were on a green screen."

Having lived through cancer, I am bored by so much emphasis being placed on the negative.  I want to come from the perspective that although no one want to be dealt the cancer card it can also bring a sense of entitlement and the need to enjoy life as much as possible.  Having cancer has taught me so much 'big stuff', such as what matters and what doesn't, and 'little stuff' - such as how to draw eyebrows in and the correct way to tie walking boots! In many ways I feel liberated, in fact, there are parts of me I don't recognise! 

I'm delighted that in fulfilling one of my dreams I am also supporting a cause close to my heart and which is likely to benefit so many people across County Durham.  I volunteer for the Trust's Charity team one day a week and it's a great feeling to be giving something back.  I've helped out at black tie events and man a book stall at University Hospital of North Durham - more things I wouldn't have dreamt of doing previously.

Beth Gibson, manager of the chemotherapy unit, said, "Cancer screening, increased public awareness alongside advancements in investigations, such as MRI scans and CT scans, means many patients are diagnosed earlier. As developments in medicine continue, treatment options become more readily available on the NHS and with the introduction of immunotherapy and targeted treatments; more patients are able to receive additional treatment options than was previously possible.  Patients are living longer with a cancer diagnosis and whilst this is fantastic news, it's putting our small unit under growing pressure and potentially affecting patient privacy and dignity."

"Provisional plans for our purpose built unit include a dedicated area with 16 treatment chairs and ample space to allow relatives/friends to be with the patient for the duration of the treatment. Currently due to limited space relatives are only able to come along to the first treatment session. Our plans also include three outpatient clinic rooms and other treatment rooms.

Charity manager at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, Pat Chambers, said, "We're very grateful to Tracey for her support - she's become a reliable, very positive team member - we're lucky to have her. Even very fit people find the Machu Picchu trek challenging and far from everyone completes it, so we're really proud of her.  I know Tracey trained hard and we're delighted for her - and very grateful for her generosity.   

"I'd urge anyone looking to support a worthwhile cause to get in touch.  You could help out at one of our events or run a fundraising event of your own.  You don't have to go to Peru though - we'd be happy with a coffee morning!"

To contact the Charity Team: email: cddft.charity@nhs.net or phone: 01325 743781.

 Ends

Published 16th Sept 2019

'As I was very, very nervous, I must have been the worst patient ever and they were brilliant with me and I can't thank them enough - could you please pass on my sincere thanks.'

Patient, Hysteroscopy Unit, Chester-le-Street Community Hospital