Cancer survivor backs charity’s new plan to help save the lives of more people like her
A mum who owes her life to drugs that Cancer Research UK has helped develop is backing the charity’s plan to save the lives of more people like her.
Lucy Edie, 53, from Impington, was diagnosed with triple-positive breast cancer in April 2019.
She started working for Cancer Research UK in 1999 and believes she owes her life to drugs and programmes the charity helped to develop.
“I’d always believed research was the answer to the problem of cancer, but I’d never felt it so viscerally before my own diagnosis and treatment,” Lucy said.
Lucy has pledged her support for Cancer Research UK’s Longer, better lives: a manifesto for cancer research and care by urging people across Cambridge to sign an open letter to party leaders at cruk.org/sign.
The report sets out how the next UK government could help avoid around 1,800 cancer deaths a year in the East of England by 2040. It outlines five key missions to speed up progress in preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer.
Lucy said: “Research into better treatments has given me the greatest gift – more time with my loved ones.
“There are so many pressures at the moment, with funding and the state of cancer services across England, but the politicians must make sure people affected by cancer don’t pay the price for this now and in the future.”
It was while away for a work event Lucy first discovered a grape-sized lump on her left breast.
She said: “I went back to my hotel room, felt a shooting pain and as I felt for the source of the pain it was very clearly a hard lump.
“I’d previously found a lump on my lymph nodes, but it was so tiny I’d thought it was maybe some kind of immune response or a cyst.
“I think, if you work for a cancer organisation, you’re always hyper-aware and wondering if you’re worrying about nothing, but in this case I absolutely knew and called the doctors the very next morning.”
Lucy was not the first in her family to be diagnosed with cancer, having recently lost her mum to a brain tumour and previously a grandfather and an uncle to prostate cancer. Her dad is currently being treated for stomach cancer.
She said: “In between finding the lump and getting my diagnosis, all I did was fear the worst.
“As well as feeling scared about what lay ahead, I was concerned my dad had just gone through bereavement, while my son, Alexander, was still a child, only 11 at the time.
“He was really close to his grandmother and still dealing with that grief, trying to make sense of it, so I just felt anything happening to me would have been a massive blow. I thought ‘I can’t die’.”
Lucy’s cancer was found to produce large amounts of a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2).
This meant she could be treated with Herceptin, which is a targeted cancer drug that was developed from research funded by Cancer Research UK. It works by attaching to HER2, stopping the cancer cells from growing and dividing.
Lucy’s nine months of treatment has also included six months of chemotherapy and surgery to remove the lump in her breast, plus three lymph nodes from her armpit.
Since March 2020, she has taken daily letrozole tablets – another drug Cancer Research UK played a big part in developing.
When she started, she was told she would have to take them for 10 years, but subsequent research into their effectiveness means Lucy might be able to finish taking them as early as next year.
She said: “If my diagnosis had come 15 years earlier, it might not have been treatable – but my story shows there’s hope.”
Thanks to research, cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the 1970s. But the charity warned that with NHS cancer services in crisis and with rising numbers of new cases, this progress is at risk of stalling.
The UK still lags behind comparable countries when it comes to cancer survival, it said, and called on all political parties to make cancer a top priority in their party manifestos.
Today, Lucy continues to remain active, partly in an effort to help reduce the chances of the cancer returning, and enjoys spending time with husband Mike, 58, a software developer in Cambridge, and Alexander, now 16, who goes to Impington Village College.
She added: “So many people’s lives are touched by this disease and the numbers are only growing. That’s why we all need to get behind this manifesto and have our voices heard, so more families like mine can enjoy more moments with the people they love.”