I fought for Yorkshire's first dedicated breast cancer unit just days after my own surgery

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A pioneering Leeds woman who fought for Yorkshire’s first dedicated breast cancer unit has retired from the campaign group she founded almost three decades ago.

Margaret Stead, 90, was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 1994. The grandmother and retired nurse, from Calverley, was 61 at the time – and she was shocked to discover that she would be treated on a mixed sex ward.

So, despite undergoing extensive treatment and a major operation, Margaret set about founding the Breast Cancer Research Action Group.

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The group campaigned for a dedicated unit at Leeds General Infirmary, and it was only a year later that Margaret was invited to unveil it.

Margaret Stead, 90, received a British Empire Medal in 2017 for her fundraising ward. She was instrumental in securing a dedicated breast cancer unit at Leeds General Infirmary in 1990s after her experience with the disease.Margaret Stead, 90, received a British Empire Medal in 2017 for her fundraising ward. She was instrumental in securing a dedicated breast cancer unit at Leeds General Infirmary in 1990s after her experience with the disease.
Margaret Stead, 90, received a British Empire Medal in 2017 for her fundraising ward. She was instrumental in securing a dedicated breast cancer unit at Leeds General Infirmary in 1990s after her experience with the disease.

She even helped to raise more than £7,500 to furnish the unit, which has since been relocated to St James’ Hospital. Margaret was awarded a British Empire Medal in 2017 for her fundraising efforts.

Now, she has retired from the group, which is linked with the Leeds Hospital Charity. Thanks to her spearheading fundraising efforts, the charity has raised more than £2m to support breast cancer patients.

Margaret said: “I was cared for on a mixed sex ward and thought it was dreadful, so I said to my surgeon that when I got out, I was going to campaign for a breast cancer unit, and that’s exactly what I did.

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“When I set my mind to something there’s no turning back, I still had my stitches in after the operation when I started a petition.

Margaret Stead, 90, was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 1994 and said that the experience on a mixed sex ward was "dreadful", so launched a campaign for a dedicated unit.Margaret Stead, 90, was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 1994 and said that the experience on a mixed sex ward was "dreadful", so launched a campaign for a dedicated unit.
Margaret Stead, 90, was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 1994 and said that the experience on a mixed sex ward was "dreadful", so launched a campaign for a dedicated unit.

“I’m incredibly proud of what our group has gone on to achieve. Not only is there a dedicated ward, we’ve also invested in ground-breaking research.”

One of the latest initiatives funded at Leeds Hospitals Charity is the use of a tattoo machine.

Sue Callum, Advanced Clinical Practitioner on the Outpatients Breast Unit, said: “For many patients, losing their breast impacts significantly on their psychological wellbeing after undergoing surgery. Thanks to the fundraising, we’ve been able to train staff to tattoo an impression of a nipple or areole for those who have had reconstruction or breast altering surgery.”

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There are also plans to tattoo eyebrows for patients who have lost hair during treatment.

Although Margaret is no longer a part of the charity’s committee, she continues to attends events, watching on with pride at the legacy she has created.