Triple cancer survivor opens garden to help fight disease
AN ABERDOUR woman who successfully overcame cancer not once but an amazing THREE times is doing her bit to fight the disease by opening her garden for charity.
Kathleen Maxwell (72), of 'Micklegarth', High Street, will be supporting the Fife Diamond Garden Festival in May, held in aid of the Association for International Cancer Research (AICR) and four other charities, including Maggie's.
'Micklegarth' has been featured on the BBC's Beechgrove Garden and Kathleen and husband Gordon, both keen gardeners, are keen to raise funds for AICR, knowing first-hand the benefits of supporting advances and new research.
Mrs Maxwell has battled back from three bouts of cancer, beginning in 2001 when she was diagnosed with endometrial uterine cancer.
Following a hysterectomy, she didn't require further treatment, but was stunned to find a lump in her breast in 2003.
Mrs Maxwell said, "That came as a shock. I had had a mammogram a few months before and nothing had been found and it was a lot bigger than I expected it to be when it was taken out."
She underwent a lumpectomy and radiotherapy but "the worst" came in 2005, when she discovered she had colon cancer and had to have a third of her colon removed.
She added, "You begin to wonder, are they going to find another cancer every two years? In 2007 I wondered, what's going to happen now?
"I have to be sensible and not try to think too much about it. It's always at the back of your mind but you have to keep it there and not let it take over your life."
She feels "extremely lucky" to have survived cancer and is grateful for the support from medics, family and friends.
She said, "When I was diagnosed I thought, 'Oh my God, that's it'.
"Your stomach drops and you get the wind knocked out of you. It would be nicer if there was a way it could be broken gently to you but I don't think there is.
"My next thought was, 'Oh damn, this upsets everything, my poor family has to go through this again'. In a way it's easier on the patient than it is on the people at home who want to help."
Mrs Maxwell has also discovered she has a genetic mutation which leaves her open to further bouts of colon cancer.
Because it's genetic, both her daughters were tested, but the results came back negative.
Mrs Maxwell has a colonoscopy every two years, which she said "is not pleasant but it's better than it growing into something bigger".
In the meantime, the cheerful former piano teacher refuses to let things get her down.
She said,"The doctors keep an eye on it and as long as I have my check-ups I'm alright.
"You need to grab hold of life and take things as they come. Nobody knows what's going to happen tomorrow."
Happily, Mrs Maxwell has been given a "brilliant" chance of survival.
She explained, "It's essential to have that early diagnosis - you have to undergo all the diagnostic tests which are not very pleasant but if you catch it early you have a much better chance of survival.
"It was heartbreaking when I went for radiotherapy - there were young mums there with double masectomies in the prime of their lives. It was such a shame.
"They were cheerful and they just got on with it, they didn't have a choice.
"It was quite humbling - there was me thinking, 'Oh, I've got to go into the hospital every day over Christmas'."
Mrs Maxwell is delighted to be supporting AICR and will open 'Micklegarth' to the public on 19th-20th May from 11am-5pm.
She said, "I believe very strongly in cancer research, anything that can help overcome this terrible disease.
"I can remember as a child, if anyone was diagnosed it was spoken about in very hushed tones but now people speak very openly about it. It's surmountable and you can live with it.
"The outcome is so much more positive than it was even 10 years ago.
"It's essential that as soon as you experience anything slightly different about your body to get it seen to - nowadays cancer is not a death sentence."
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Apr 25, 15:05