HUNDREDS of families affected by cancer have been supported by a North-East group which has now been in operation for five years.

Members of the Great Aycliffe Cancer Support Group marked its fifth anniversary with a celebration at its monthly meeting in Newton Aycliffe last night.

Founder Allison White was herself diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukaemia in 2009 and although she is in remission, she suffers from a number of permanent debilitating health problems as a result of treatment.

In the wake of her diagnosis, the 41-year-old began fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support and later launched the group - which provides help and advice those to affected by the disease.

Miss White said: “The group has helped and supported hundreds of families around the North-East. Sadly we have lost members to this awful disease but we have been there until the end supporting not just the patient but relatives too.

“We have patients from Newton Aycliffe, Chilton, Ferryhill, Shildon, Bishop Auckland, Stockton and many more towns. When I started the group all those years ago along with my mum, I never thought I would have achieved what I have.

“My aim was to help cancer patients in the same position as I. Sadly I lost my mum (Barbara White, to cancer) who loved going to the group, but I’m sure she would be so proud now knowing how much the group has grown.”

The group has run successfully over the last half-decade thanks to a team of committee members, supportive members and public donations from a range of sources and fundraising events.

In July, 2018, a group raised £4,000 when they undertook a Coast to Coast ride.

It was organised by Austin Donoghue, whose wife, group member and mum-of-two Dee who is now in remission.

A team of nine runners also embarked on the Great North Run in September in aid of the charity.

Miss White said without this kind of support the group would not be able to offer its range of services which include patient transport and a respite break in the charity’s holiday home.

Most recently the group was able to make true a wish of one long-standing member by hiring an NYPD-marked stretch limousine on Monday.

Miss White said: “Gary Falconer is terminally ill and has been a member for years. Even though he is really poorly now he still puts up a fight and just loves coming out on the trips - he always has a smile on his face.

“It was wonderful to see his face light up and it’s so good that we can try to help fill these cancer patients’ bucket lists but we do rely on the generosity of local businesses as well as the public.”

Last year Miss White was invited by Prince Charles to attend a reception at Buckingham Palace for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Described by the cancer survivor as “a once in a lifetime opportunity”, the trip was thanks to a nomination from Macmillan Cancer Support’s fundraising manager in the North-East, Michelle Muir.

Support group meetings are held on the first Thursday of each month at Newton Aycliffe Youth and Community Centre. For more information about the Great Aycliffe Cancer Support Group, its services, social events and to make a donation, call Miss White on 07762258696 or visit greataycliffecancersupportgroup.co.uk