HAVING spent a year undergoing treatment for cancer, Tracey Hutchison is making up for the time she lost and using her new perspective on life to do things she wouldn’t previously have dreamed of – including a recent hike to Machu Picchu in Peru.

Not only has Tracey had the adventure of a lifetime, she has also raised more than £1,000 for a cause very close to her heart – the appeal to expand the Chemotherapy Day Unit at University Hospital of North Durham. The appeal is being backed by The Northern Echo through our Excellence in Cancer Care campaign.

“I am so grateful for the excellent care I’ve received – scans, operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy,” says Tracey. “But there were times when it felt like I was being carried along on a ‘cancer tidal wave’. I can honestly say though, that during my year-long treatment there was more laughter than tears. Having been reminded that life is precious, I worry less and am much more confident. So I’m using my new philosophy to get out there and live life to the full!

The Northern Echo:

“I’m determined to make up for the time I lost during treatment, pursuing adventure whilst also playing my part in creating a much bigger chemotherapy day unit at University Hospital of North Durham. Raising money by trekking to Machu Picchu felt like a great way to fuel my own new desire to get out there – I’d never previously been further than Greece!

“I’ve brought back some amazing memories. The hike itself was tough and the altitude meant I had to stop every ten steps or so to catch my breath. But I was with a fantastic group of people, we were all supporting each other – I have never felt comradeship quite like it. It was also so beautiful, it was as though I was on a film set and the mountains were on a green screen.”

Having lived through cancer, Tracey says she is “bored by so much emphasis being placed on the negative”.

“I want to come from the perspective that although no one wants to be dealt the cancer card, it can also bring a sense of entitlement and the need to enjoy life as much as possible,” she says.

“Having cancer has taught me so much ‘big stuff’, such as what matters and what doesn’t, and ‘little stuff’ – such as how to draw eyebrows in and the correct way to tie walking boots. In many ways I feel liberated, in fact, there are parts of me I don’t recognise.”

As well as her fundraising trek, Tracey also volunteers for the Trust’s charity team one day a week.

The Northern Echo:

“It’s a great feeling to be giving something back,” she says. “I’ve helped out at black tie events and to man a book stall at University Hospital of North Durham – more things I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing previously.

Beth Gibson, manager of the chemotherapy unit, says: “Cancer screening, increased public awareness alongside advancements in investigations, such as MRI scans and CT scans, means many patients are diagnosed earlier. As developments in medicine continue, treatment options become more readily available on the NHS and with the introduction of immunotherapy and targeted treatments; more patients are able to receive additional treatment options than was previously possible.”

Beth says that while it’s “fantastic news” that patients are living longer with a cancer diagnosis, it is putting the unit under growing pressure and “potentially affecting patient privacy and dignity”.

“Provisional plans for our purpose-built unit include a dedicated area with 16 treatment chairs and ample space to allow relatives/friends to be with the patient for the duration of the treatment,” says Beth. “Currently due to limited space relatives are only able to come along to the first treatment session. Our plans also include three outpatient clinic rooms and other treatment rooms.”

Charity manager at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, Pat Chambers says: “We’re very grateful to Tracey for her support – she’s become a reliable, very positive team member – we’re lucky to have her. Even very fit people find the Machu Picchu trek challenging and far from everyone completes it, so we’re really proud of her. I know Tracey trained hard and we’re delighted for her – and very grateful for her generosity.

“I’d urge anyone looking to support a worthwhile cause to get in touch. You could help out at one of our events or run a fundraising event of your own. You don’t have to go to Peru though – we’d be happy with a coffee morning!”


Donate via: www.justgiving.com/cddft

Call: 01325 743781

Email Pat Chambers at: pat.chambers1@nhs.net or search Facebook and Twitter: @cddftcharity