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Anita's standing up to cancer

21 October 2016

Health Care

Anita Colson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 24, is raising awareness of the disease by taking a starring role in the Stand Up To Cancer live TV show which will be broadcast on Channel 4 tonight (Friday 21 October 21).

Anita Colson, now 25, from Westcliff, allowed camera crews to film her at home and during her treatment at Southend University Hospital to show the impact cancer has had on her life.

The film has already been broadcast on Channel 4 and will be shown again during the Stand Up To Cancer live programme which aims to raise vital funds for Cancer Research UK.

In December 2015, cancer turned Anita's life upside down. She had recently become engaged to Scott Jarvis, her partner of nine years, and was planning for their future but then came the shock diagnosis. 

Aged just 24, she started treatment at Southend University Hospital with surgery to remove her right breast, followed by six courses of chemotherapy and Herceptin for a year, as well as fertility treatment and genetic testing because she was so young.

Anita said: "I postponed the wedding straightaway and everything else is on hold for now. Losing my breast was so hard and I am not able to have a reconstruction until the end of next year at the earliest. It was especially hard just after the surgery - any time I went out, I felt everyone was looking at me.

"Then my hair started to come out with the chemotherapy and a friend helped me to shave it all off the morning after the second round of treatment. That gave me back some control and Scott had all his hair shaved off at the same time, but it was still tough as I had always loved my long hair."

Now Anita is urging men, women and children to help transform the lives of cancer patients and their families by supporting Stand Up To Cancer.

Launched in 2012, it has already raised more than £25million to fund translational research, which takes developments in the lab and transforms them into brand new tests and treatments for cancer patients. Every pound raised will help to support this progress and bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

Anita knows all too well how kinder treatments are needed after experiencing the side effects of chemotherapy.

Anita said: "The hospital staff have been great. The doctors, nurses and breast care nurses have been so supportive and understanding. The staff at the chemo unit are so outstanding, to try and be happy and positive and kind every day means an awful lot when you know you have to visit there.

"It has definitely affected my confidence - I used to think I could do anything, but now I have this new sense of vulnerability that affects me in so many ways and I think I am more cautious in all walks of life.

"I am working from home when I can but it is still a struggle as I get so tired and have to take naps. It is good to get back into the routine again, but my concentration can slip. The side effects don't stop when the chemo does. 

"I may have these questions hanging over me and I still have severe pain in my feet from some of the chemotherapy drugs, but I am enjoying every moment, every walk to the seafront or every breath of fresh air. I want to enjoy everything and make as many memories as possible."

Stand Up To Cancer is supported by a host of celebrities including Davina McCall, Alan Carr and Adam Hills. The campaign culminates with a night of live TV on Channel 4 led by the brightest stars in film, TV and music. Anita's story will be broadcast during the live show.

Rachel Carr, head of Stand Up To Cancer, said: "Anita is a remarkable young woman whose whole life has been thrown off course by her cancer diagnosis. And even with an extremely tough road ahead she's chosen to help others by sharing her story to inspire everyone to Stand Up To Cancer and raise money for vital, life-saving research.

"One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime and that statistic is the driving force behind the fantastic partnership Cancer Research UK has established with Channel 4. Together, through Stand Up To Cancer, we are determined to raise money to save more lives, more quickly."