Jen Cooper was 19 years old, and at university, when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s
Lymphoma. After her diagnosis, Jen received help from Macmillan Cancer Support. In herblog, Jen tells why she joined her local Macmillan fundraising committee and why it is ‘hugely rewarding to be giving something back’.
What’s your cancer experience?
I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma nearly 10 years ago when I was 19. I was in university at the time and had been suffering from a number of different symptoms including sickness, persistent cough, tiredness, weight loss and a rash.
I was finally referred to a specialist after developing lumps under my arm but I was displaying symptoms for over two years before I was actually diagnosed.
Being diagnosed was a massive shock but my family and friends were a fantastic support.
I moved back home while I underwent a six-month course of ABVD treatment.
When I started the treatment I actually felt better as I had become quite unwell with the symptoms I was suffering.
The treatment was successful, and a year to the date of my last chemotherapy session I ran the London marathon for Leukemia CARE.
I then had regular check-ups until Mark 2012 when I was given the ‘all clear’ and celebrated with far too much champagne!
Now I am a mostly normal adult. I do think I suffer with ‘chemo brain’ from time to time, and I don’t handle being tired very well but other than that I have no complaints.
I do worry that my illness might come back but I always tell myself that what will happen will happen and try not to worry about the things I can’t change.
Why did you decide to fundraise for Macmillan Cancer Support?
Throughout my experience of being diagnosed, treated and living beyond cancer Macmillan has always been there.
It might sound cheesy but my hospital had a Macmillan nurse who had the time to tell me what my treatment was going to be like, and reassure my parents.
I was given financial assistance for bills I was unable to pay and even now I still find the Macmillan website a hugely valuable source of information.
I always felt like I wanted to give something back to help someone in the same position.
What tempted you to join the Cardiff Capital Macmillan Fundraising Group?
In 2012, I was contacted by the local Macmillan fundraising manager who had seen an article in the local paper for a charity bike ride that I completed for Macmillan riding from Nairobi in Kenya to a wildlife reserve in Tanzania.
I met Becs (Rebecca Parke – Fundraising Manager, Cardiff and Vale) for a coffee and she explained what the group did. I was immediately interested!
It’s been great to meet people who have also been affected by cancer, and we can do so much more together than I ever could on my own.
Tell me a bit about your committee?
I like to think that we are friendly and fun! We’re a group of professionals who meet most months to discuss anything relating to Macmillan, from holding bucket collections to organising events.
What have the highlights since you’ve joined the committee?
Since I joined we’ve organised two pub quiz nights and two comedy nights among other events.
I always find these events hugely rewarding – certainly stressful at times with organising comedians, or raffle prizes. But on the night it’s always a great buzz to see so many people who come along, have a fun evening and donate what they can to Macmillan.
You volunteer to give your free time to raise money to help people affected by cancer. Does it take up much of your time?
Everyone within our committee works so we all know that it can be challenging to fit in a lot of fundraising around our jobs. For that reason we are really flexible and there is never any pressure on anyone to do more than they can.
We just do what we can! Some weekends I might spend four hours at a bucket collection on a Saturday morning, and then I may not be able to do another for a month. It all balances out.
Has anything surprised you about being a member of the committee?
I didn’t know what to expect when I went to my first meeting and I was really surprised by the age of the group (average is around late 20s) and also have savvy the group was. We have a Facebook page, Twitter account, email account and even a blog!
What would you say to someone who was thinking about contacting their local Macmillan Fundraising committee?
I would say give it a shot. The Committees I’ve met along the way have always been so friendly, and all focused on a common goal. It’s a great way to meet people and talk about our experiences which isn’t always so easy. I also find it hugely rewarding to be giving something back. Just a few hours at a supermarket can raise hundreds and that makes it really worthwhile.
If you would like to find out more about your local Macmillan fundraising group, search our interactive map.