In the middle of planning her wedding to fiancé Tim, Dr Sally Chappell was diagnosed with breast cancer. Talk of dresses and honeymoons turned to doctors and chemotherapy but, with the support of her family, she has completed her treatment and is now back to the job of arranging the wedding.
Now the mum-of-one who is also Nottingham’s official Maid Marian, is asking others to help support Life Cycle 6, the University’s annual fundraiser, led by the Vice-Chancellor, which this year is hoping to raise £1 million for breast cancer research at the University.
Dr Chappell, 38, of Beeston, was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in July 2015. She had noticed changes in her breasts which had prompted her to go to her local GP. As soon as she begin tests to diagnose the cause she said she feared it was cancer.
But Dr Chappell, who works as a lecturer and researcher in Human Molecular Genetics at the School of Life Sciences at The University of Nottingham, received a double blow when specialists confirmed that it was cancer and it had also spread to her bones and liver.
She said: “The diagnosis was horrendous, like a bolt out of the blue. It’s even worse when it’s spread because they won’t class you in remission. They optimistically give you ten years to live and I just thought about our daughter and how I might not see her grow up.”
Dr Chappell began treatment at City hospital, starting chemotherapy in July and finishing the course at the end of October 2015. She started radiotherapy at the end of last year and has now completed the course although is still on medication.
Incredibly she continued to work during her treatment and, despite her hair loss, she continued appearances alongside her fiancé Tim Pollard who is the City’s official Robin Hood.
She said: “I was very lucky that I tolerated chemotherapy quite well, so I could continue to go to work. Carrying on with work took my mind off everything.
“I have always been quite determined (some people may say stubborn). Life is for living and when things get in the way, you’ve got to jump over the barriers.
“I was Nottingham’s official Maid Marian before I lost my hair. Now I just do it in a wig.”
And now with the support of her family she is urging people to donate funds for the vital research being carried out at The University of Nottingham.
Experts at the University are developing ground breaking techniques to detect breast cancer early, develop personalised, targeted treatments and prevent the disease from spreading.
Dr Chappell said: “If you are going to get breast cancer anywhere then Nottingham is a good place to get it. The research that is happening, the big names and the quality of the facilities are amazing. What’s really important is that this campaign is happening and it is going to save lives.
“There is such a great academic and clinical community in Nottingham. They have the big ideas they just need to money to make a difference.
“As a researcher I’d thought about research from a patient’s view before, but it’s interesting to now have that dual perspective and personal experience. It’s quite reassuring that I know scientists are thinking of the patient at the end of it. Researchers have the patient’s best interests at heart.
“From a personal perspective, it would be nice to know that breast cancer isn’t a death sentence. I think that a realistic goal would be to treat it so that it doesn’t get any worse, even at the late stage that mine is at. I think that would be good; to stop it spreading further.”
Experts at Nottingham are already leading on developing the world’s first blood test to detect breast cancer early. Work to develop a similar blood test to detect lung cancer is already helping save lives in the US and currently undergoing a large scale clinical trial in Scotland.
Life Cycle 6 includes a team of University staff undertaking a gruelling 1,400 mile endurance bike ride this August to the four corners of Britain to help raise funds for breast cancer research.
As well as sponsoring the endurance cyclists and taking part in the community bike ride, the University is encouraging people to hold their own fundraising events such as bake sales, dress down days, sky dives and charity discos. A list of ideas and more information features on the Life Cycle website.
Dr Chappell will also be attending Meet the Researchers – a free event on Saturday 21 May to give people a behind the scenes look at world leading research into breast cancer. The public are welcome to turn up to Queen’s Medical Centre on the day but to secure a view of the laboratories, please register by Friday 20 May 2016.
The Meet the Researchers event is part of the Research and Innovation Showcase 2016 - a series of events and exhibitions organised by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, The University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University, that showcase the life-changing world-class medical research taking place in Nottingham.
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2015. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK by research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for four years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.
Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…