Maggie Haynes

Can you remember what you were doing 10 years ago in January 2007? Well I certainly can; I was organising my own funeral!

In the previous September, aged 39, I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, after having difficulties with swallowing and was given the 3 possible outcomes: do nothing and I would have 9 months to live; if chemotherapy was the only other option, then I could have 18 months; if I were to be a suitable case for surgery....then who knows!!

I ended up having chemotherapy and then lifesaving surgery at Colchester General Hospital. I thank God, I’m still alive albeit with certain limitations regarding energy levels. I’ve also had to make some quirky little lifestyle adjustments but, in the grand scheme of things, that’s nothing compared to what the outcome could have been!

I always knew I’d do a fundraising event to celebrate 10 years post-surgery and came up with the idea of holding an afternoon tea. On the 21st Jan 2017, 100 friends joined us to mark this fantastic occasion. There was a glass of fizz to welcome all our paying guests then I did a little talk about my diagnosis and treatment. My husband spoke about the support we received from the OPA and St Helena’s hospice based in Colchester. Our local hospice offers therapeutic intervention which is what I benefitted from. The hospice is also a place for the living as well as ensuring a ‘good death’. Attending the hospice empowered me and gave me the confidence to start building a future for myself and my husband, albeit on my long road to recovery.

We also attended the OPA meetings at Guys Hospital where it was beneficial to meet other people in my situation and exchange coping strategies etc. My fundraiser was a way to raise the profile of both these charities because without fundraisers and other forms of giving these charities may well struggle in the future.

Our guests were served a selection of different filled sandwiches accompanied by endless cups of tea using lovely bone china. Numerous homemade cakes were followed by scones with clotted cream and jam accompanied by live background music and lots of chatting and laughter. After an hour or so, the remainder of the afternoon was rounded off with an extensive raffle and an auction.

None of us know what’s around the corner health wise and even if you believe you’re fit and healthy sometimes a curve ball is thrown and you’re trajectory in life changes. As a Christian, I had a lot of prayer and support which got us through a lot of tough times plus I feel my positivity and having had a good wholesome lifestyle helped me come through.

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