Angela is currently undergoing treatment for Stage 4 lung cancer, which has now moved to parts of her brain. I’m hoping we can help to support her and her young family whilst they are going through this incredibly challenging period. We can lessen their financial worries, so Angela can focus on being a mum and enjoying the time that she has with her little ones.
Many will remember Angela from boarding at Loreto College Milford or from the many pubs she worked in, such as, the Beaconsfield, the Welllington in Turnpike Lane, or Fiddlers Green in Manchester. After completing a Business degree at De Montfort University in Leicester, she moved back to London to manage pubs: the Fringilla & Firkin in North Finchley, O'Neills in Sutton, the Freemasons in Wood Green (where she met Andy and where the Arranmore gang had many a good night and weekend!), the White Bear in Hendon and finally the Cricklewood Hotel in Cricklewood. She then opted for a 9-5 job in 2005 when her son Aaron was born. In 2008 they moved to Wales. Angela has worked for The University of Wales Trinity Saint David since 2009, although she is currently on sick leave. Her family was complete when Maggie Ray came along in 2013 and she and Andy made it all official in May 2015 when they wed.
In October 2018 Angela was admitted to hospital with pneumonia. She spent 17 nights in hospital. During various tests cancer was mentioned but in December it was confirmed that there were no signs. She was told it would take six months to fully recover from the pneumonia, such was the severity of the infection. When she was discharged in late October she improved slowly and returned to work after Christmas. From January she felt no great improvement as she got tired easily and couldn't rush around in her usual superwoman way. However, she was confident that by May she'd be more or less back to normal (6 months from diagnosis). The x-rays showed a slight improvement each time and the doctors told her to be patient. Alongside this, since June 2018 she had been having joint pain - it was the main reason she visited the GP in September 2018. She was then diagnosed with Polymyalgia Rheumatica in April 2019 and started taking steroids in May. Within 24 hours she felt like a new person and thought she'd finally turned the corner. All that was left to do was to undergo a CT scan on her lungs.
Unfortunately, they found "lesions" which required further investigation. Another bronchoscopy, a CT guided biopsy and an abdominal scan led to an official diagnoses of incurable stage 4 lung cancer. This news was given on June 21st, the day after Angela’s 48th birthday!
She says, “The bottom fell out of my world is an understatement. My first thought, as with any parent, was for my children and how the hell I was going to tell them. My second thought was that I brought it all on myself by smoking for years. Needless to say the guilt is with me on a daily basis. But I can't turn the clock back and make wiser decisions, I can only do my best for the time I have left with them. They are without a doubt my biggest achievement in life and I am so proud of them.”
The primary cancer is in her right lung, the same one that had the pneumonia. There is "something" in her left lung, they are not sure what but presume its secondary cancer and are treating it as such. Due to having had pneumonia and the likelihood that there would always be a risk of reoccurrence, her oncologist did not want to give chemotherapy because it would strip Angela’s immune system. He wanted to give her immunotherapy; it ramps up her own immune system to fight the cancer. Unfortunately, her cancer cells were not in the correct percentage of a particular protein to be covered and allowed to access this option (due to NICE guidelines). After appealing the guidelines, at the end of August she received her first treatment. The plan was to receive immunotherapy every 6 weeks. The intent was that she will start to feel better generally and enjoy a better quality of life. There can be side effects, but it just made her feel a bit more tired than usual as her body got used to it. Current licences allow this drug to be used for 2 years only.
In October Angela was admitted to hospital again twice. She felt unwell, nauseous, had difficulty focusing and suffered headaches. An MRI scan revealed the cancer had spread to two areas in her brain. It may have been there for some time not causing any problems, but the areas were now surrounded by swelling which were causing the symptoms. This led to her scheduled treatment being stopped until the swelling was under control.
She was prescribed a very high dose of steroids, reducing every two days until she was off them on 30th October. She resumes treatment every three weeks (instead of six) from Wednesday 6th November. Her oncologist is hopeful it will tackle the spots in the brain too, eliminating the need for radiotherapy, for now. The side effects from the steroids were pretty severe, e.g. very high blood sugar which was hard to control as steroids made her continually hungry, thinning of the skin, muscle weakness and extreme tiredness, to the point where she had to lie on the bed after climbing the stairs. That was by far the greatest symptom for her, a real challenge for someone who is not used to feeling tired or putting things off due to tiredness. She’s hoping now she’s off the steroids she will gain strength and be less tired and able to take on a more active but paced role of mum.
Why I am fundraising…
After receiving her diagnosis in June, she told very few people. However, in October when she received the news that it had spread to her brain she felt it was time to let her Dad, sister, brothers and extended family know, as well as friends and neighbours. In hindsight, she feels that perhaps she should have done it much sooner because the messages of love and support and the cards she has received have “been totally overwhelming and gives me strength on a daily basis. The only positive in being ill is its humbling effect.”
She says, “I have complete faith in my oncologist and the specialist nurses - they are absolutely fantastic and always at the end of the phone if I need them.” She is a member of the Roy Castle Lung Foundation forum and many of the other members have truly inspirational stories proving the statistics wrong time and time again. She recently read of a nine year survivor with similar cancer and stage to hers. Angela is extremely positive, hopeful and determined not to be a statistic and be around for a long time yet. She says she has too much to do. "I am determined to be around for a good while yet to rear my children and make the most special of memories with them.”
Since the swelling on her brain Angela is not allowed to drive and had to return her driving licence (This will be for at least a year, possibly forever!) She lives in a beautiful part of Wales, but it is very remote and rural with no bus route. Not being able to drive has a big impact on her independence. Her Dad, aged 78, moved over from Arranmore Island, Co. Donegal to help and support her and “to taxi me around and it means I'm not stuck in the house all day.”
Her diagnosis not only affects her but all those around her, both family and friends.
So here we are … can you help Angela fulfil her wishes so that in the months ahead she can make wonderful lasting memories for Aaron and Maggie Ray to carry with them throughout their lives, remembering their wonderful mum and special times they shared? Can you help to support Angela and her family whilst they are going through this very difficult time so that she need not worry about work, and can allow her to spend more quality time with her children?
Please help if you can by making a small donation. Every little donation will make a difference to Angela and her family. Thank you!
- Melinda Zakarias
- Alison Simon
- John beag McGowan
Organizer and beneficiary
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