‘There was just so much love that kept me going:’ How a Lifeways’ Service Manager beat cancer – and plans to help others
Judy Fazakerley, a Service Manager for Lifeways in Liverpool, has been part of our Service Managers’ team for 11 years, after moving over from the NHS.
She’s worked within the support sector for close to four decades. Not a day has gone by where she hasn’t loved the job.
Unfortunately, one morning in July last year, Judy found a lump on her breast. All of a sudden, her work and home life changed dramatically.
“I rang the doctor and got an appointment with the hospital,” recalled Judy.
At the hospital, she doctors carried out a mammogram, an ultrasound, and a biopsy. Judy thought she’d be fine – she’d had a non-cancerous cyst on her other breast before.
‘I just knew’
However, four days later, she was asked to come back to the hospital.
“As soon as I saw the Macmillan Nurse I just knew,” Judy said. The results had come back – and Judy had Stage 3 breast cancer.
Judy’s cancer was very aggressive, and doctors wanted to operate the following week.
“It may sound silly but my first thought was that I had to get back to work.”
“I spoke to my Area Manager, Charlie Platt and Anne Marie McMahon, my Regional Director, who were very supportive.
“I didn’t want to be off work, as working would keep me motivated and would keep my mind off the pain. She said I could still work if I wanted to but to have the time off I needed. Charlie said I could do what I needed to keep me in the routine.”
Judy described the ‘unbelievable support’ from her team and fellow Service Manager Alison Mundy, who would ring her every day and make her laugh, even when she was in pain. Judy’s team would check on her constantly, always being asked if she needed anything.
A weekly ‘hug bag’
Lifeways’ Group Head of Health & Clinical Governance Karen Roberts would also ring her daily. “That support meant so much to me,” said Judy.
Every week, Judy’s service would give her a weekly ‘hug bag’ filled with gifts such as candles, chocolates, and dog toys.
The people we support at Judy’s service would also put in notes, cards, drawings, and photos to cheer her up. “There was just so much love that kept me going,” Julie added.
As Judy’s cancer was so aggressive, doctors couldn’t operate straight away. She had 6 intensive chemotherapy sessions, each lasting 10 hours. She became ill and lost all her hair - but still had energy and motivation, and wanted to go to work every day.
The responsibility of managing 7 services helped Judy focus and get up in the morning.
The, in December, Judy had her operation to remove the cancer cells. Just 9 days later, she was given the all-clear.
‘The best thing I’ve ever done’
“I was in remission and the chemo was so worth it,” said Judy. Her treatments had shrunk her cancer and all the remaining cells were removed in the operation.
“I even got to ring the bell!” added Judy, referring to a bell cancer survivors ring to mark the occasion.
“This was the best thing I have ever done. I just kept thinking: oh my God, I’ve done it.”
While Judy’s cancer is in remission, there’s still more treatments to be done. Judy starts radiotherapy this week.
“I know this will make me poorly and tired but this journey would be much harder if I wasn’t able to work and feel part of the company.”
In the coming months, Judy plans to work with Lifeways and the Macmillan Cancer Support charity to teach Support Workers and people we support the signs of cancer and a safe way to check.
“I wanted to say a massive thank you to Lifeways for helping me get through this journey,” Judy added.More news and events