Helping a family faced with cancer

Gary Lewsley doing a fundraising firewalk for Maggie's.
Gary Lewsley doing a fundraising firewalk for Maggie's.
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Gary Lewsley knows better than most the stress and upset a cancer diagnosis can cause to an entire family.

For his parents Carol and Derek have been fighting their own battles with the disease this year.

Three years ago, Carol was told she had liver cancer and last month, underwent a transplant operation.

Meanwhile Derek was diagnosed with prostate cancer in June and had several weeks of treatment.

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The couple, from Middleton in Leeds, have inspired Gary to back the YEP’s A Million for Maggie’s campaign, which aims to raise £1m to bring a specialist cancer support centre to the city.

The Maggie’s charity runs centres for patients and their families across the country but the Leeds facility would be the first in Yorkshire.

Gary, who is originally from Leeds but now lives in Bradford, said the cause was close to his heart as other family members and several friends had also been affected.

“This awful disease has been a constant and horrible thing in my life,” the dad-of-two said.

“This is an amazing cause. In time, hopefully we will have a Maggie’s centre in Leeds.”

Gary’s mum Carol was diagnosed with liver cancer three years ago after decades of ill-health linked to hepatitis B, which she contracted through a transfusion of contaminated blood in the 1970s.

The 66-year-old underwent cancer treatment but in October was told that the disease had returned and was growing quickly.

After being put on the list for a transplant in November, she underwent the operation two weeks later.

“The doctors had said that if they didn’t get an organ, there wasn’t a lot they could do,” Gary added.

“It was either the transplant or die.”

Thankfully the operation was a success and Carol is now recovering at home, and doing well.

“It’s like looking at a different person,” her son added.

“I am seeing her now looking like she was when she was 40. “Having seen my mum wither away to cancer, it is great to see her now.”

Her husband Derek is caring for her, helped by the family, and he has just been told he is in remission from prostate cancer.

The 65-year-old was diagnosed in June and went through a month of treatment at St James’s Hospital – where the new Maggie’s centre is to be sited.

Gary said he was keen to support the charity’s fundraising as soon as he heard about their work through his employer First Direct.

The Leeds-based bank has pledged to provide corporate support and raise awareness of Maggie’s across the UK, as well as doing fundraising for the new Yorkshire centre.

Gary, 43, took part in one of the firm’s fundraising events, a fire walk at their head office in Stourton.

“I did the fire walk as I wanted to show support to my mum,” he added.

“I really enjoyed it and I’ll do anything to get more money in.”

He said the emotional support which Maggie’s centres offer, along with social and practical help, would’ve been a huge benefit to him.

“I didn’t have anyone to turn to and ask those questions that you really want to ask,” he said.

“I would’ve liked to be able to talk to somebody independent or just have an easy way to chat to people who are going through exactly the same thing. For people who want to talk, this would be another option.”

Maggie’s centres, which are in the grounds of NHS cancer hospitals, provide a programme of free support which has been shown to be of great help to people with cancer.