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“I was determined to show cancer wasn’t going to take over my life, that I was in control,” says Simone.
And now the 50-year-old teaching assistant has made even more of a splash after using her new hobby to raise £3,500 for cancer charity Maggie’s Merseyside.
“Maggie’s was just so welcoming, it’s a great place – and I wanted to fundraise for Maggie’s to raise their profile,” she says, “and all-important funds.
“If I hadn’t heard of them before I started chemo, I gathered a lot more people might not have either and I wanted to change this.”
Simone sought help from her fellow outdoor swimmers, The Happy Chilli Dippers, and, wearing orange tutus, orange wigs and even orange faces, they braved the waves and icy waters of the Mersey with a sponsored swim at the end of October.
Now the Hoylake mum is encouraging other people to get busy for Maggie’s and host socially distanced virtual get togethers around their kitchen table and fundraise for the Wirral centre.
It’s hoping hundreds of ‘Kitchen Table Days’ will be held nationwide this month, hopefully raising thousands for people with cancer across the UK.
Every Maggie’s Centre follows a blueprint about cancer care as originally laid out by Maggie Keswick Jencks. Maggie lived with advanced cancer for two years and was determined that she should not “lose the joy of living in the fear of dying”.
In order to live more positively with cancer, Maggie believed people needed information, stress-reducing strategies, psychological support and the opportunity to meet other people in similar circumstances in a relaxed and beautiful setting. That’s why all Maggie’s Centres are individually designed by leading architects to feel like a home – and all have a big ‘Kitchen Table’ at their heart…
It was in 2018 that Simone was placed on an early breast screening trial and had her very first mammogram on March 12, 2019. Two weeks later the results from a biopsy came back revealing she had breast cancer, grade 2 mucinous carcinoma, oestrogen receptive and high-grade DCIS.
Simone says: “Everything was a blur to be honest. At my following appointments I was given loads of information about surgery, hormone therapy and reconstruction. It was just too much to take on board and rushing into surgery just felt too brutal to me.”
Simone decided to pause the surgery as she felt well and joined the outdoor swimming group. It was in April this year that Simone felt a lump in her breast and was referred back to Clatterbridge.
Her lump had doubled in size and she had a mastectomy in May, followed by preventative chemo in July.
That was when she discovered Maggie’s: “It was a great place to just have a cuppa and a piece of cake. I then learnt about the online groups they were running during lockdown, such as Tai Chi, Yoga and the Friday kitchen table zoom meet ups.
“The financial worries that cancer causes were eased by Maggie’s support and guidance, they helped advise what support I was entitled to.”
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— The Guide Liverpool (@TheGuideLpool) October 25, 2020
After one of the free online sessions where she heard about the Kitchen Table Day fundraisers, Simone signed up to receive her free fundraising pack and decided to put a spin on her event.
With her amazing outdoor swim community – The Happy Chilli Dippers includes Chris Shaw, Jazmine Seddon – and the “Me again” charity, Simone made her Kitchen Table Day interactive and fun.
One weekend, the entire team donned orange Maggie’s tops, tutus, orange wigs and orange faces and walked the streets of New Brighton raising awareness.
The following weekend Simone and others hit Moreton beach to take part in an open water and socially-distanced sponsored dip – and she treated the beach as her kitchen table, offering home-made cakes and hot soup to the brave outdoor swim groups.
Simone says: “Maggie’s Kitchen Table Day is an opportunity to catch up with the people you care about to celebrate and have fun whilst also making a difference. Whether it be a virtual coffee morning, a garden gate cake delivery service or even raffling off some cakes, people can get involved and support the great work that Maggie’s does.”
“I can’t wait to see the wonderful events that people in and around Merseyside come up with to help make Maggie’s Kitchen Table Day 2020 a success.
“Maggie’s Merseyside relies entirely on voluntary donations to allow us to keep on developing our unique programme of free support for all those living with cancer in the area. We have seen a rise in the complex needs of people affected by cancer this year, our support is needed now more than ever.
“We’re so grateful to people like Simone for continuing to raise funds during these challenging times.”
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