Building hope brick by brick – Christine's story
Discover our exciting new partnership with M&S and how it will help change the lives of cancer patients like Christine.
This spring, as part of the Oak Cancer Centre appeal, The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity is delighted to have joined forces with M&S in an exciting new partnership to make the Oak Cancer Centre a reality.
The Oak Cancer Centre, which is currently under construction at The Royal Marsden in Sutton, will bring over 400 researchers, 350 clinical staff and thousands of patients together under one roof, ensuring The Royal Marsden can continue to advance treatments for the benefit of cancer patients like Christine.
In 2018, following a stage 4 bowel cancer diagnosis, Christine, 73, from Berkshire, joined a clinical trial for a new immunotherapy treatment at the Royal Marsden. Now, four years on, Christine and her family are supporting the Oak Cancer Centre appeal as a way of giving back to the hospital that saved her life.
"It is so fantastic to see M&S supporting this appeal which will make a huge difference to patients like me. The more money we put into research, the more lives that can be saved, like mine." - Christine
Creating a special Sun-flowering brick
Inspired by the Oak Cancer Centre appeal’s, ‘building hope, brick by brick’ messaging, M&S has created a beautiful sun-flowering brick which will be sold online as part of a bundle together with a bunch of seasonal flowers. Currently, you can buy your brick together with a colourful display of tulips.
‘A clinical trial gave me hope’ - Christine's story
Christine first started to feel unwell in June 2017. She thought this was down to food poisoning but after feeling ill for a number of weeks and losing lots of weight she was referred to her local hospital. A series of scans and tests revealed she had stage 4 small bowel cancer, which had also spread to her peritoneum.
“I knew so little about cancer, when the oncologist said it was stage 4, I actually asked her if that was good or bad. I was told the cancer was terminal which was incredibly shocking to hear. It was so hard coming home to tell my family this news.
After surgery to remove the tumour and a year of chemotherapy, Christine was told the treatment wasn’t working and she might only have weeks left to live.
“I had my silver wedding anniversary and 70th birthday coming up and I wasn’t sure that I’d make either of these as I was told the cancer was progressing. I was so weak that I needed to use a wheelchair as I couldn’t walk. It was at this point that we heard about the trial at The Royal Marsden.
Joining an immunotherapy clinical trial at The Royal Marsden
“When you have a mutation in your cancer, you can be eligible for certain types of immunotherapies, and that’s exactly what I had. Joining this clinical trial really felt like my last option.
Christine joined a clinical trial at The Royal Marsden which was investigating the benefits of immunotherapy for patients with certain secondary cancers and those with a specific genetic mutation called microsatellite instability (MSI).
In July 2018, Christine received her first dose of immunotherapy. After just two treatments, Christine noticed an immediate improvement and within a few months, her scans were showing no visible signs of cancer.
The clinical trial gave me hope, I went from having weeks left to live, to being completely well again.
"I never expected to get better, never mind having my quality of life back. I had assumed I would never eat again and would be fed intravenously for as long as I lived. When I started being able to eat it was such a huge milestone.
“I am so grateful to The Royal Marsden; if it wasn’t for research and the opportunity to be treated through a clinical trial, I wouldn’t be here now. I’m also so incredibly thankful to The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity for everything they do to make the hospital such a special place. The more money we put into research, the more lives that can be saved, like mine.
“Over the last 4 years, I’ve been able to see my children and grandchildren grow, celebrate milestones that I never thought I’d see, and we’re looking forward to spending Mother’s Day all together this year whilst skiing in the Alps.
One of Christine’s three children, Stephanie, discovered how The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity helps to fund research and the nurses and equipment that were crucial in Christine’s trial and treatment. She has since become a Charity ambassador and taken on a number of challenges including the London Marathon, raising over £9,000.
Stephanie said: “I felt like I wanted to do everything I could to give back to the hospital who gave us our mum back. Mum was well enough to be there on the day of the Marathon cheering me on and met me at the finish line. It was all very emotional. I absolutely loved every minute of it. It was the best experience I have ever had and doing it for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity meant so much to me and it felt so special.
“Mum still shows no visible signs of cancer and we're so happy she has her life back. My family and I will be forever grateful to The Royal Marsden for what they have done for my mum.
A special gift
You can support our Oak Cancer Centre appeal by purchasing your own sun-flowering brick and seasonal flower bundle. M&S will donate £5 from each sale to the appeal.
Buy your brick together with a colourful display of tulips.
Discover more inspiring stories on our blog