Dawn displays amazing spirit as she battles cancer

James Coop, Dawn Cheetham and Thomas Bold
James Coop, Dawn Cheetham and Thomas Bold

A brave Wigan cancer battler has spoken of her incredible determination to fight through a horror diagnosis.

Mum and grandma Dawn Cheetham was first told she had breast cancer in 2014 but last year received the devastating news that it had returned and spread all over her body.

The 46-year-old, who moved to Abram a few years ago after around a quarter of a century in Standish, also suffered a seizure on holiday in Spain in October and doctors then discovered two brain tumours.

She was rushed into hospital earlier this month after another seizure just 24 hours before she was due to have one of them removed, with surgeons at Salford Royal carrying out the operation a day after it was supposed to take place.

Dawn has managed to face all these ordeals and setbacks with a sense of humour and a fierce desire to keep going against all obstacles which has amazed health professionals and provided a huge source of pride for her family.

She spoke of how she has managed to defy the odds in her battle against cancer and thanked her nearest and dearest, particularly her husband Neil and her children, for remaining at her side throughout her darkest hours.

Her relatives have also thrown themselves into a massive fund-raising operation for Wigan and Leigh Hospice (WLH), which has been looking after her.

Dawn said: "Being told the cancer was back was really hard, it was just awful. It is really scary because you know that when it is back there is a problem.

"I was diagnosed after being in pain and the type of breast cancer meant it could only really be treated with chemotherapy.

"We got rid of it but in March 2016 I started getting the same pain again. It was literally hours after I had returned to work. I contacted my nurse straight away and they ran tests.

"A couple of weeks ago I was on life support in hospital. I’m just thankful we went to Spain because we should have been doing a trip to St Lucia and Barbados and the plane trip would have killed me.

"I’m so determined to keep going with my head held high. I’m a fighter. I’ve got a beautiful, supportive, amazing family and they’ve got me through this.

"When you’ve got a family like mine you can’t just sit in a corner, say you’ve got cancer and give in.

"When the consultant first told me I had breast cancer I looked at his eyes and I said what has to be done has to be done. I was 42, had three beautiful children and I was going nowhere."

Dawn says she is currently looking forward to a quiet family Christmas and some "chilling time" following her recent hospital drama.

As well as recovering from the surgery she is also preparing for a course of radiotherapy to treat the tumour still remaining in her brain.

She has faced several ordeals in the operating theatre, with five tumours being removed from her body very soon after receiving the bad news the cancer had returned.

To add to the emotional whirlwind of recent times she and husband Neil, who she describes as her soulmate, tied the knot in May 2016 at a wedding which was brought forward from August and organised in just 10 days.

One of the ways she has faced her illness is by writing about her experiences in blogs on Facebook, which she says has had an extraordinary response.

She said: "I’ve got a massive following now and that has also got me through. I can’t tell you how much writing about it has helped.

"They are there around the world when I’m up in the middle of the night because I can’t sleep. There’s a lady who’s got exactly the same diagnosis as me and we are there for each other.

"People have said I’m an inspiration keeping them going, but to me they are keeping me going through me talking about it. I don’t feel an inspiration at all, I’m just me trying to keep myself alive."

Dawn was referred to the hospice in September 2016 and since then has been under the care of the nurse specialist team.

Dawn has had visits and check-up phone calls from a nurse within the team and has also had reiki and massage from the hospice’s complementary therapists.

Her family are so grateful for the hospice’s help that they have embarked on a series of fund-raising events, bringing in £3,240.69 to date.

Her sons James, 27, and Thomas, 19, both took part in a skydive organised by the hospice in May and daughter Danielle, 25, had her head shaved in November to raise funds.

Husband Neil’s workplace ICR Moss and BAE Systems also donated some of the proceeds from a Cumbrian walk to WLH.

Dawn, who also has three grandchildren (five-year-old Evie and Lyla and Harper-Mai, both two), said she was proud of the family’s efforts and also thanked the hospice for their efforts.

She said: "I am so proud of my family for everything they have done to raise money and my daughter will be doing the sky dive next year to raise even more.

"I want all of the money they raise to go to the hospice, they have been so supportive to me and they look after local people.

"I’m not doing all this for myself, I want to help other people and offer advice and support to those who can’t take it on the chin like I can."