WHEN Rustington woman Kate Laker was diagnosed with a rare cancer, she thought things couldn’t get any worse.
But then she discovered the treatment for tonsil cancer involved her wearing an immobilisation mesh mask which clipped to a table – a nightmare for someone who suffers from claustrophobia.
Kate, 49, of Chanctonbury Road, said: “It fitted like a second skin. It clipped to the table to hold you absolutely still. It was incredibly claustrophobic – and I am incredibly claustrophobic.
“I was given medication to relax me but it was like a new trauma every day – it was like going to school knowing you are going to be bullied.”
The first signs of Kate’s illness emerged in December 2013 when she had a cold and what appeared to a mouth abscess. When antibiotics failed to get rid of the problem, her GP referred her for surgery to remove it.
The diagnosis, when it came on March 20, of squamous cell carcinoma, was devastating. Only around 890 people are diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsil in the UK every year.
Kate said: “I had an inkling there was something seriously wrong because of the speed at which things were happening, but still, nothing prepares you for hearing those words: ‘I’m really sorry to tell you, you have cancer’. The enormity of it just lands on your shoulders. My husband, Alec, and I cried for England for about half an hour.”
Kate’s treatment began immediately and by far the worst part was the full face and neck rigid immobilisation mask she had to wear during radiotherapy, every day for 30 days.
Kate called the mask Justin after an old boyfriend who was a pain to be with, but she came out stronger at the end of their relationship.
After gritting her teeth she got through the treatment and now she is well and clear of cancer.
She said: “I’m still being checked every six to eight weeks and will need more surgery to remove nasal polyps which resulted from the treatment.
“But life is good. I’ve lost a lot of weight as a result of the treatment and I want to stay healthier.”
Now, one year on, Kate has overcome the claustrophobia and beaten the cancer.
And she is celebrating by taking part in Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life.
“I had an inkling there was something seriously wrong because of the speed at which things were happening, but still, nothing prepares you for hearing those words: ‘I’m really sorry to tell you, you have cancer’.”Cancer survivor Kate Laker, 49
She is doing not one but six events – one for each week of treatment she had.
Kate is determined to show cancer that hell hath no fury like a woman in pink.
She is doing Race for Life events in Guildford, Crawley, Horsham, Brighton, Worthing and Portsmouth.
And she is encouraging mums, daughters, sisters and friends to help her take on the disease by entering a Race for Life 5k, 10k or Pretty Muddy event this summer.
Kate, who is mum to William, 11 and Samantha, 15, and works as a dispenser in a chemist, said: “When I was told I had cancer, my first thought was for my children. But thanks to research, I’m now cancer-free and will be around to share more precious moments with my family.
“I want to help others by raising money so Cancer Research UK can ensure even more people survive. So, I’m urging the brave ladies of Sussex to take part in Race for Life and help beat cancer sooner.”
She added: “I also want to give something back which is how I came up with the idea of doing the six Race for Life events.
“Unless the research is done, you can’t have the treatment – that’s why I want to raise money for Cancer Research UK.”
Kate’s fundraising page is www.justgiving.com/katelaker0
Every day, almost 120 people are diagnosed with cancer in the South East. That is why Cancer Research UK is calling on women to fight back against this devastating disease by signing up to Race for Life now.
Jenny Ainsworth, Cancer Research UK’s events manager for Sussex, said: “Race for Life events are not competitive. They are not about being fit or fast.
“It’s about an army of women standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the fight against cancer. Every single one of our participants is so inspiring and we want women to help make 2015 our best year yet.”
To join the race, see www.raceforlife.cancerresearchuk.org