Corby mum’s cancer fundraiser to support end-of-life care nurses

Macmillan Cancer Support fundraiser to be held by Elaine McDonald in Corby.
Macmillan Cancer Support fundraiser to be held by Elaine McDonald in Corby.

A Corby woman, who has been told she has terminal cancer, will be fundraising for the charity which has been supporting her.

When Elaine McDonald was given the news that her treatment for breast cancer was not working, she was assigned a Macmillan Cancer Nurse.

Elaine enjoys spending time in her garden.

Elaine enjoys spending time in her garden.

Her personal nurse, Debbie, has been guiding her through the toughest of times, accompanying her to medical appointments and assisting her preparation of an end-of-life care plan.

It was back in 1999 when mum-of-three Elaine was first diagnosed with breast cancer.

She had just started her first year as a primary school teacher, when she found a lump in her left breast.

Elaine said: “I went to my doctor and he told me that all women my age had lumps. I went back three times over six months after which I eventually had a scan.

Elaine McDonald

Elaine McDonald

“It was cancer. I had a lumpectomy, chemo and radiotherapy - I was 33 years old.”

Eventually, Elaine was given the all clear and carried on her teaching career, first at Ruskin Junior, Wellingborough, then Latham’s Church of England Primary School, Brigstock, followed by five years at Exeter Junior School, Corby – her last post was at Havelock Junior School, Desborough.

The 53-year-old said: “You just get on with it. I had three teenagers at the time and had a very busy life.”

It was 17 years later that Elaine found what she thought was a lump in her left breast again.

Elaine McDonald was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in March 2019

Elaine McDonald was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in March 2019

This time a scan showed that her left breast was fine, but that there was a lump in her right breast.

In 2015, she had a mastectomy and chemotherapy followed by breast reconstruction surgery.

Just three years later Elaine noticed that her left breast had changed.

Tests revealed a tumour and once more Elaine underwent a mastectomy.

Elaine sorts through some of the items donated for the raffle which will be held at her Macmillan Coffee morning event

Elaine sorts through some of the items donated for the raffle which will be held at her Macmillan Coffee morning event

However, half way through her course of chemotherapy doctors stopped her treatment because of the damage it was doing to the rest of her body, especially her feet and her stomach.

Finally, in March this year, Elaine noticed the skin on her chest had changed prompting another visit to hospital.

She was told that she had developed locally metastatic breast cancer - the cancer had moved to her skin’s surface.

She said: “I was offered a new treatment called Electro Chemotherapy at Barts Hospital in London.

“I was told it was going to hurt but I didn’t feel a thing. It just didn’t work at all so they stopped it.

“I was sitting in a room with my husband, Peter, and my breast care consultant who’d been with me all the way through my treatment said ‘There’s nothing more we can do I’m afraid’.

Elaine has three daughters: Katie Norrie, 35, Lesley Holmes, 33 and Kirsty McDonald, 32.

She admits that the worse moment for her was when she took a genetic test to see if she was carrying the variant BRCA gene - a mutation that increases the chance of a person developing breast cancer.

Elaine said: “Waiting for the BRCA test to come back was the worst.

“When it came back clear it was such a relief to know that my daughters wouldn’t have it.”

Since her terminal diagnosis in March, Elaine and Peter, who is also 53 and works as a fire prevention officer for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue, have been on three holidays.

The couple, who met as 14-year-olds when pupils at Kingswood Secondary School, now have five grandchildren: Imogen, eight, Kai, six, Callum, one, Joshua, six, and Georgia, three.

“I’m going to make a memory box for each of the grandchildren which I have been planning.

“I feel quite content – I’m just happy to wake up in the morning. I’ve got my fabulous family and wonderful friends.

“They are very supportive.”

On Saturday, September 28, Elaine will host a bring a cake Macmillan Coffee Morning event to raise funds for the charity.

Neighbours have been knocking on her door and Elaine has been inundated with donations for the raffle she plans to hold.

She added: “People have been really generous. A woman who I don’t really know came to the door and gave me a load of prizes, another lady handed me a bottle of whisky, a relative sent me £100.

“My Macmillan nurse Debbie has been there at every appointment and talked through everything with me so I understand and helped me know exactly what’s going on.

“She’s helped me filling out forms and going through my options for end-of-life care.

“She will help me arrange my medical and personal care and I can have my dignity.

“Life would be much harder without Macmillan’s support and I want to raise the money so that other people can get the same support as I get.

“You have two choices. Spend your life being miserable or be positive and make memories.”

Elaine’s Macmillan event is from 1pm to 5pm in the Danesholme Community Centre, Corby, on Saturday, September 28.

Guests have been asked to bring a cake or a savoury dish, either homebaked or shop-bought, for people to share.

There will be games, a raffle, refreshments and cake.

For further information about Macmillan and to donate go to https://www.macmillan.org.uk/donate.