17 June, 2021

The impact of breast cancer reaches beyond the people with the disease. In addition to the devastation caused to the person who is diagnosed, husbands, partners, children, and parents can be left wondering how to support their loved ones. Read more on the impact of breast cancer.

During the last year, with the Covid-19 pandemic, this has probably never been more true. Sadly, thousands of people will have received a diagnosis alone or had chemotherapy and radiotherapy appointments.

W ithout the reassurance of a hand to hold.

But sometimes, adversity can trigger a positive response. And that is exactly what happened for John Paxman when he started fundraising for Breast Cancer UK. As a reaction to his wife Helen receiving the devastating news of a breast cancer diagnosis in late 2020.

Helen’s diagnosis and the impact of breast cancer

Remembering the time, John said: “Around September, Helen noticed a slight change to the shape of her breast. By October, it had progressed. So even though she couldn’t feel any lumps, she booked herself an appointment with the doctor straight away.”

John highlights the excellent care Helen received from the NHS throughout, and within a couple of weeks, Helen had an appointment with a specialist in the hospital breast unit. “Her appointment was at 9.30, and by 11.30, they’d diagnosed her with breast cancer after taking biopsies. She phoned the hospital, and she was crying. We were devastated – we didn’t think anything like that would ever happen to us.”

After not being able to join Helen at the hospital for any of her appointments, by the time she started her chemotherapy, John admits to feeling a bit helpless. “I just felt I had to do something, so I decided to raise some money. Because of the lockdown, I couldn’t go out anywhere, so I hit on the idea of doing the Three Peaks Challenge up and down our stairs. It sounds funny, but I needed to do something for myself, too – it might even have been a way of letting out some anger. And to do that, you have to punish your body sometimes!”

The Three Peaks Challenge

The Three Peaks Challenge normally involves climbing the tallest mountains in Scotland, Wales, and England – a total of 3408 metres. For John, this translated into climbing up his 14 hallway stairs and back down again a huge 1,363 times.

The scale of the challenge quickly became clear to John. “On the second or third day, my calves had gone, and I thought ‘I’ve got problems here,’” he said. “But throughout the challenge, I was going online, going on Facebook, and putting a couple of videos up. The videos were pulling in lots of people – I had one that was viewed 500 times, so straight away, I had lots of people coming back and giving me advice on what I should be doing for my calves. It felt like I really had a team behind me.”

John’s challenge coincided with the early stages of Helen’s chemotherapy treatment, and so John had to help his wife through some really hard moments: “In the end, Helen had two different types of chemo, and the second type did affect her. She was straight home and up to bed, which really isn’t like her.” But, despite it all, Helen’s positivity shone through: “Shortly after starting treatment, Helen was losing her hair. We bought a shaver and shaved it off together. She was so strong with it, though. And although losing her hair was distressing, and she tried out different wigs – even blue and red – she’s now rocking the bald! In the end – she just said, ‘Do you know what, I actually feel quite comfortable like this.’”

This positivity meant that the couple’s love and support for each other went both ways.

As John continued pounding up and down the stairs, he had extra motivation right on hand. “A lot of the time, Helen was in the bedroom shouting encouragement!” said John. “And this hasn’t just been about raising money. It’s raising awareness too. Right from the start, Helen started a private Facebook group called the Naughty Boob page with information about how to look after yourself. It’s worked – we got told by someone that after reading her page, they went and got something checked out.”

Breast cancer prevention

The prevention message of Breast Cancer UK has really resonated with the couple, too and led to other changes in their lives. John explained: “We looked into the food aspect of it. We’re eating healthier now. We’ve even got a little garden out the back now where we’re growing veggies and stuff – like pak choi, runner beans, pumpkins.”

John’s incredible indoor Three Peaks Challenge saw him take a whopping 19,082 steps without leaving his hallway and raised an amazing £2725. Reflecting on his achievement, John said: “I actually enjoyed it! I was doing something like 130 climbs each time, which took about an hour each time. On the last day, it was so emotional. I was welling up – I just went.”

And although he’s modest about his achievement, John is really clear in his message for anyone reading this article: “I would encourage anyone to get involved and raise money for Breast Cancer UK, but also just talk about it and bring awareness to people. Once I started posting about it on Facebook, other people I know started talking about it and posting too – and all of a sudden, it just took off.”

Helen returned to work recently. Her treatment continues with John by her side.

Help us prevent breast cancer by supporting our work.

By donating £20 today you can help fund vital research into the causes of breast cancer so we can reduce the number of people, who have to go through the heartache of a diagnosis and treatment. 

Together we can prevent breast cancer.

Donate today



Related Articles

18 February 2024

I’d never been sick before breast cancer

It can be difficult to regain a sense of self after a breast cancer diagnosis. Even after receiving the long-awaited all-clear call from the doctor, finding your stride can take...

Read full story

7 February 2024

Scottish foursome take on ‘world’s toughest row’ for breast cancer

Crossing an ocean in a rowing boat. It's billed as the 'World's Toughest Row', so what drives someone to do it? "For me, it's all because a friend of...

Read full story

17 January 2024

Shropshire woman goes bald to support friend with breast cancer

It was emotional, but we had such a laugh when she was doing it, and we just giggled all the way through, " says Karen Whitehead, talking about going bald...

Read full story

21 December 2023

Banchory fundraisers compete in Battle Cancer for Breast Cancer UK

No stranger to tough physical challenges, Jim Saunderson, a CrossFit fan, took on a slightly different endurance test. This time around he took part in the Battle Cancer Challenge event...

Read full story
Professor Val Speirs

A £10 donation today can help fund our PHD studentships to carry out world-class animal free research into the causes of breast cancer.

 

Donate £10
Woman on zoom call

A donation of £30 can help fund our Prevention Hub so your loved ones can learn how to reduce their risk.

Donate £20
people holding up hearts

Your donation of £50 can fund our animal free research and educational programmes to prevent breast cancer for future generations.

Donate £50
women wearing breast cancer uk t shirt and blue jeans

Just want to help in some way? donate an amount that feels right for you

Start Your Donation

Donate Now

Make a Donation

Share:

My One Time Donation

I want to make a one time donation of

Thank you. You’re just a few steps away from completing your donation.

+25% with Gift Aid

If you are a UK taxpayer, the value of your gift can be increased by 25% under the Gift Aid scheme at no extra cost to you.

This means that your donation of £100.00 could be worth an extra £25.00 to us, and it doesn't cost you a penny!

My Monthly Donation

I want to make a monthly donation

You’re just a few steps away from completing your donation.

+25% with Gift Aid

If you are a UK taxpayer, the value of your gift can be increased by 25% under the Gift Aid scheme at no extra cost to you.

This means that your donation of £100.00 could be worth an extra £25.00 to us, and it doesn't cost you a penny!

One Time Donation Monthly Donation
Make a donation with Gift Aid

Gift Aid is reclaimed by the Breast Cancer UK from the tax that I pay for the current tax year. If I pay less Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax than the amount of Gift Aid claimed on all my donations, it is my responsibility to pay any difference. Breast Cancer UK will reclaim 25p in tax back for every £1 I donate.

Your payment details

Your donation amount

Donation Allocation (Optional)

Additional Comments (Optional)

Stay in Touch

We’d love to keep you posted on how your support can make a difference to Breast Cancer UK and the exciting ways you can support us in the future.

Please tick if you’re happy to receive information from us by:

By completing an online donation, your data will be handled in accordance with the Breast Cancer UK’s privacy policy, and the privacy policy of our payment processing supplier BBMS (a Blackbaud company).

Thank You Wall

If you donate over £50, as a way of saying thank you for your donation, we would like to feature your donation on our virtual thank you wall on our website.

Donations will only feature on the wall for up to two months depending on the level of donations we receive.

You must fill out all required fields before paying.

Processing...

Need help making your donation?

If you need help to make a donation or have any questions about making one, please contact us…

Call 08456801322