Brave Wigan woman Clare faced the ultimate challenge
A cancer survivor is taking on a series of challenges to mark the fifth anniversary of her diagnosis.
Five years ago Clare Callaghan was given the news that she had endometrial cancer - just months after her father Roy was given the all-clear after battling the disease.
She underwent gruelling treatment, which left her unable to have children, and still suffers from many side effects.
But Clare, 37, remains positive and has decided to mark the fifth anniversary of her life-changing diagnosis.
She is taking on a series of challenges in a bid to raise awareness of the disease, which is the fourth most common cancer in women in the UK.
She was initially challenged to set up a vlog and it moved on from there.
Clare, who lives in Hawkley Hall, said: “The idea is that each month I have been doing an interview about a certain aspect of cancer. Through that I have been doing different challenges.
“It’s to raise awareness of different aspects of cancer but also raise money for Cancer Research UK for the support they have given me.”
The first sign that anything was wrong was when Clare had a period that lasted for 19 days.
She had been in hospital after an asthma attack and undergoing steroid treatment which she thought might have caused it.
But tests revealed Clare had endometrial cancer.
She said: “I didn’t cry when they told me I had cancer, because my dad previously had cancer. He was given the all-clear in April 2013 and I was told I had it in August 2013.
“I didn’t really cry at the cancer because I didn’t see it as a death sentence as such, but what I wasn’t expecting was a hysterectomy to be the first point of call.
“When she first said endometrial cancer, I remember thinking, ‘what was that?’ I had never heard of it.”
Doctors initially thought the cancer was low grade and invited her to take part in a trial where they might be able to save her uterus.
But further tests revealed it was in fact a very aggressive type of cancer.
She said: “The oncologist said there was no stopping and they had to do the operation as soon as possible. Within a week I was in surgery.
“That was the day I cried, the day I realised I couldn’t have any children. That was the day it all hit me.”
Clare had chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy - internal radiation - in a bid to beat the disease.
She said: “I lost my hair, I ended up having blood clots and numerous infections where I ended up in hospital. It was very much a rollercoster ride.
“Unfortunately the treatment left me with side effects, so I have bowel and bladder problems, I have peripheral neuropathy and mobility issues. I have a nerve problem so I am in a wheelchair.
“It has been a bit of a journey, but I’m still here. I have not got the all-clear but the cancer is behaving itself. I have to go for regular check-ups every six months.”
Clare set up a Facebook page to share her experiences with friends and family, before opening it up to the public.
Clare said: “I decided from that point that I was going to be really truthful and honest. Through that, it’s grown and most of it is now not about my cancer, it’s about my everyday life, but I’ve been staggered by how many people want to know how I’m getting on and the side effects and how I cope with everyday life.
“I get contacted by people who are going through the same situation and ask me questions.”
Despite being told her survival rate was 50/50, it is now five years since Clare was diagnosed with endometrial cancer.
She has been involved in Stand Up To Cancer, a joint fund-raising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4. She took part in TV show Celebrity Call Centre and went to London to be in the audience for the campaign’s live television show.
Clare is now taking on a series of challenges to mark the anniversary and raise awareness of the disease.
She said: “I have done a few little challenges so far. I have done a craft one - I was challenged to make 50 origami flowers. People may think ‘is that really a challenge?’, but because of my peripheral neuropathy I struggle with fiddly things. What may not seem like a challenge to other people is actually a challenge to me.
“While I was in London, I’m not a big fan of bridges and heights, so my mum challenged me to do the Millennium Bridge. It was the bridge that when it was first opened, it was shut because it was too wobbly. Being in a wheelchair, you feel it bounce.”
Clare was challenged to wear a festive item every day in December and is organising a speed dating event for another of her tasks.
She also hopes to hold a flash mob - but is seeking help as she does not know how to do it.
As well as raising awareness of the disease, the challenges are helping Clare to get out and about again.
She said: “Going through these challenges is helping me focus on these goals, so maybe one day I will be able to go back to work and be able to find ways to adapt things because I’m in the wheelchair.
“Sometimes I have to find certain ways of going around things.”
Clare says she is “very grateful” and “overwhelmed” by all the support she has had and feels it has made a massive difference.
She is particularly thankful for all the help she has received from her family and friends.
People can suggest challenges for her to do, no matter how big or small, by contacting her via social media at www.facebook.com/keep.smiling.7545 and www.twitter.com/keepsmilingcsc.