Authors: Elaine Hazel Sharp
Tags: #Alpaca, #Cancer, #Farming, #business, #biography, #horses, #lima, #prize
FIGHT FOR YOUR DREAM
Elaine Hazel Sharp
This digital edition published in 2015 by
An imprint of
Andrews UK Limited
Copyright Â© 2015 Elaine Hazel Sharp
The right of Elaine Hazel Sharp to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.
For my late Father-in-law
“I Miss You Dad”
For my late Sister
“You Are Free Forever”
To Marty and Georgie to whom I owe so much
“You created a new life for me, I'll never forget you”
To those who battled in vain R.I.P
This book is dedicated to my devoted husband Nigel to whom I owe my life. I would never have made it through without his unrelenting love, patience and support; many a lesser man would have walked away. To my mum and dad, Nigel's mum and dad and my loving sister Denise who were there for me in my darkest moments. Thank you for standing by me.
Thank you to Professor Andrew Shorthouse, my surgeon who saved my life with his expertise, and throughout all my treatments. Thank you to Professor Malcolm Reed for looking after me through my many infections. Thank you to Dr. Iman Azmy who has now taken on that task. Thank you to Professor T.C.Li. My gynaecologist. Thank you to Louise, my psychologist who became a friend but sadly lost her battle with breast cancer. Thanks to Brenda and Sue my breast care nurses who have given their time so freely. Thank you to Thornbury Hospital staff, especially on Mappin Ward, on the many occasions I have been an inpatient you have always treated me with care and understanding. Thank you to my many friends who have supported me through difficult times. Thank you to our dear friends Jane and Steve who have gone above and beyond the meaning of âfriendship' not only for me but for Nigel as well. Thank you to Dr. Norman Macaskill, Words cannot express the gratitude I feel for immeasurably improving my life. I truly believe that I wouldn't be here without you. And finally, thank you to Joy Whitehead, who took on the task of tirelessly editing my manuscript. My sincere thanks go out to everyone.
October 1997, Age 34
It was 9.55pm on Wednesday 23
October 1997. Coronation Street had just gone to the commercial break, and I was laid in bed in Nigel's arms as was quite usual at that time of night. The international football match had pushed Coronation street later than the usual 7.30pm slot, so I wanted to catch up on my regular viewing of the soap, as it was a favourite of mine back in those days.
âThat was painful,' I thought to myself as Nigel squeezed me closer to him. Without giving it a second thought I felt under my nightshirt and pressed my hand onto my left breast. A wave of panic washed over me as I thought about Carol and Jane. Carol had been a close friend of mine, and Jane was my brother-in-law's sister. Both of them had recently died from breast cancer. I shook my head trying to banish thoughts of the big C. Surely I must be mistaken. It can't be a lump. My boobs are too small to cause any problem.
The intro music of the second half of Corrie wasn't holding my attention. My mouth was dry and, as I glanced upwards to Nigel, he had sensed my unrest. âWhat's the matter?' asked Nigel. âErr, I'm sure it must be my imagination, but can you feel a lump here?' I said, pushing his hand toward my breast. I was still looking upwards, to see if I could read anything from his facial expressions, when my worst fear was confirmed; yes he could feel a lump. The colour was draining from his face when he said, âWe need to go to the doctor's tomorrow to get that checked out.' For the next few minutes we didn't speak to each other. We were each quiet with our own thoughts, but our minds were working overtime.
Corrie had passed us by. The music was dwindling, signalling the end of another episode; but neither of us noticed - we were just mulling over our discovery.
That night I felt restless, tossing and turning, thinking I would soon find a comfy spot to fall asleep; but I just couldn't settle. Nigel was the same, but when I whispered, âAre you asleep?' there was no answer. I knew he was awake, but he was trying to be positive and make me think he was having a good night's sleep. He couldn't fool me though - I'd seen the look on his face!
The next morning Nigel had showered and was dressing when I awoke. I'd fallen asleep eventually, but now it was morning and I felt so tired. âYou need to ring the surgery at 9.00am to make an appointment,' said Nigel. âWell, I've been thinking. I might hang fire for a few days to see if this thing disappears,' I answered. âWomen's boobs can be lumpy at certain times of the month and I don't want to cause a fuss if it's nothing'. Nigel turned around, buttoning his shirt, and said, âNo, you won't. You'll go today. Don't be ridiculous.'
The surgery was busy that morning. It was Thursday, and the surgery was closed every Thursday afternoon, so you could always guarantee a wait to see a doctor. Just my luck: Dr Poxon was running late, and the surgery had squeezed me in at the end of the morning session when I had explained my concerns over the phone that morning. Eventually my name was called over the speaker. I'd not seen this doctor before; she was a lady doctor and immediately she put me at ease.
After a brief chat she asked me to undress and lay on the bed, where she could examine me. Checking both my boobs she made no comment, but I couldn't read her facial expressions as I had done with Nigel the previous evening. Nigel was like an open book for me, but I'd never met this doctor before.
âCan you show me where you can feel the lump?' she quizzed.
âOh, God,' I thought, âshe can't feel anything.' I felt such a fraud. At first I couldn't find the lump, which only last night felt so prominent. âYeah, it's here,' I said, almost feeling relieved that I hadn't imagined it. âOh yes, yes, Mmm'.
âOkay, you can get dressed now.' Hurriedly I slipped on my bra and shirt and pulled the curtain back. I plonked myself back on the chair opposite the doctor.
âWell, it's small, whatever it is. I don't think it's anything to worry about, but I don't mess about with breast lumps so I think you should see a consultant. I'll write you a referral letter for a Mr Shorthouse; he's a general surgeon and very good'.
I can't really remember much about the drive home: only the echo of the doctor's voice. Breast lump! General surgeon! It's small whatever it is. But I just had this awful gut feeling that this was going to be bad news.
On returning home the first person I rang was Nigel. He tried to sound positive but I sensed that he too was concerned and, although Nigel is the stronger of the two of us, I couldn't convince myself that this wasn't going to be a problem.
It was about 11.30am by this time, and normally I rang my mum and dad for their daily check up. This morning they beat me to it. I tried to sound normal and upbeat, but they must have sensed something was wrong. âWhat's the matter, Elaine, is your back bad?' asked dad. âNo, it's okay,' I said, and continued to blurt out something about finding a little lump. Mum was then handed the phone, and she did her best to reassure me: âIt's probably nothing, love.'
Denise, my middle older sister, rang me about one hour later, quizzing me about what the lump felt like. âIs it hard? Is it soft? Does it hurt?' Obviously, mum and dad had rung Denise for their own reassurance on their youngest daughter. On the other end of the phone Denise cringed when I described the lump as feeling like a âhard pea'.
Denise worked at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield and, after going through the trauma of Jane's death six months earlier, she felt like it was dÃ©jÃ vu: all happening again. I rang Thornbury, where an appointment was made for me to see Mr Andrew Shorthouse the following Monday evening 6.30pm. âThat's it then,' I thought, âcountdown.'
I would say that, throughout my life, I've always been quite a competitive person, and have always tried hard to achieve. But nothing, absolutely nothing, could have prepared me for the fight and challenge that lay ahead.
A Hard Act to Follow
âThat's my boy' Grandad Allen congratulates my Dad after winning his first 10 mile National in record time
I was born on the 11
October 1963 into a working class family. My dad worked in a local steel forge, and mum did cleaning jobs in our local area. I was the youngest of three daughters; Sylvia was eight when I entered the world, and Denise was four. Dad had a tough physical job, which meant he worked shifts - mornings, afternoons and nights on a three weekly basis; so mum was always around to make sure that dad had a hearty meal, depending on what shift he was working. When we came home from school, be it lunchtime or teatime, we always had a hot meal to tuck into as well. Although we were just a normal working class family, both mum and dad always made sure we lived well. We had our annual holiday every year in Blackpool, and stayed in the same guest house year upon year.
The one exceptional thing about our family was sport. For as long as I can remember, I used to run everywhere: up to the local corner shop on errands for mum, up to school, back home for lunch, back to school and home again, round to friends' houses, everywhere involved running! I remember one day, when I was at school, I forgot my ingredients for a cookery lesson. So I decided to go and see my year tutor to ask if I could go home during my fifteen minute break time to collect them. When he asked why I was so sure I could make it home and back, still within break time, I promptly answered, âWell, you see, I'm a cross country runner, so I know I will be quick; I run home for lunch everyday and back again, and if you check the register, I've never been in trouble for being late.' I realised in later years why the wry grin came across my tutors face! Permission granted, so off I went and I was still back before break time ended! That was a three mile round trip in less than fifteen minutes!
So it's no surprise that, as soon as I was old enough, I joined the local Athletics Club, where like minded people would meet on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings to train. By the time I had turned twelve, I realised that sprint events were not my forte. I was a very slim girl and did not have the power of the stockier girls who came out of the blocks like rockets. I had always enjoyed the freedom of distance running, so I spoke to dad and we decided that I needed a different coach if I wanted to run distance. Decision made, dad took me along to see John and Sheila Sherwood, who used to train at our local track with an athletic squad of their own. Anybody involved in athletics will be familiar with the name Sherwood. Sheila won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 for the long jump, and John won the bronze medal four years later in Mexico for the 400m hurdles. That was the year that David Emery won the gold. I felt very proud when John Sherwood told me I could join them. I'd always been in awe of them when I was training with my sprinting squad, so to be a part of the Sherwood squad was truly awesome. Dad was my driving force and athletics hero, and sadly proved to be an impossible act to follow.
Spring Bank holiday Tuesday in Sheffield was always a big day on the city's sporting calendar. It was the local Star Walk, and hundreds of wannabe athletes would take part to claim the prestigious first place. The event was a twelve mile race walk through the city. No feeding stations were allowed then, not like today: just twelve gruelling miles of hard toil! On one of these particular Tuesdays, dad was watching the event with his mum and dad, brothers, new wife and hundreds of other people. He turned to his dad just after the leading man had passed them and said, âI'm going to win this next year.' His dad, my granddad Allen, just laughed and said, âYou, you'll never win this.' That was all the encouragement dad needed. He joined the local âSheffield United Harriers', and the following year, 1947, dad made the race his own when he took first place in record time! This was just the tip of the iceberg for dad's future glory in the sport. Dad went on to take the race walking world by storm, winning national championships at every distance, most of which were in record time. Dad took the sport to new heights that had never been witnessed before in the UK. He was the premier speed walker, and was a great ambassador for the sport. Lawrence Allen - my dad - was the man to beat, but not many did...until Roland Hardy. Over the following years, Roland and my dad were involved in many fantastic races, always with one sole aim in mind: to be the best! Winning was the ultimate prize; second was just not good enough.
Dad's passion took him to Commonwealth and European Championships, and the pinnacle in every athlete's career: the Olympic Games. Dad represented Great Britain at the Olympics in Helsinki 1952. Even now, after all these years and at the age of forty seven, I still find it painful to express the sadness I feel in what I believe my dad was cheated out of. Yes, an Olympic medal! If you read any sporting books which refer to the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, you will find much documented text on how badly the British race walking team were treated when decisions were made on disqualification of the whole British team. Much controversy surrounded those games with regard to the British. So very, very sad...
As dad will always say when I talk to him about those Olympics, âIt knocked the stuffing out of me. I won a few more Nationals after, but I was never the same race walker.'
Dad, in all his ninety-three years, has never managed to overcome the heartache of Helsinki.
My passion started at a young age. My sister Denise hanging on to my donkey on Blackpool Beach