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ChemoHero: One year on - and how North Devon businesses can help

PUBLISHED: 16:18 18 April 2017 | UPDATED: 13:49 19 April 2017

Lisa Wallis, founder of ChemoHero.

Lisa Wallis, founder of ChemoHero.

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It’s been nearly a year since Lisa Wallis set up ChemoHero - Sarah Howells caught up with her to find out how businesses can support the Boxes of Kindness, and how it all began.

It has certainly been a busy 12 months for Lisa Wallis.

She’s been nominated for a national award; voted as one of North Devon’s most inspiring people; given out nearly 200 Boxes of Kindness with ChemoHero; and all this while battling cancer for a second time.

And it’s all down to the work of ChemoHero, the charity she set up while fighting her own battle, to help chemotherapy patients in North Devon.

The 34-year-old mum-of-one’s journey began in 2012, when she was first diagnosed with an invasive form of breast cancer.

She said: “I found a lump after my son, Stanley, was using me as a climbing frame and trod on me.

“It really hurt and when I went to check in the bathroom, I found a 4cm lump – the size of an egg.”

Inspiring community work: Lisa Wallis. Picture: Guy Harrop. Inspiring community work: Lisa Wallis. Picture: Guy Harrop.

Lisa, 29 at the time, visited her doctor but was told it was a hormonal cyst. She was sent for a mammogram and told it was probably not cancer.

But the mammogram revealed something more sinister, and she was sent for 13 biopsies. She was then told she had cancer.

“It was the day after my 30th birthday,” Lisa said.

“It was a huge shock; I had three areas of invasive breast cancer. I am told I was the youngest in North Devon at the time.”

Lisa had to undergo a mastectomy and immediate reconstruction, as well as eight chemotherapy treatments and 15 radiotherapy treatments.

But two years after her treatment ended, Lisa found another lump. She had another biopsy, which revealed the cancer had spread to the opposite side of her body, in her lymph nodes.

Lisa Wallis, founder of ChemoHero. Lisa Wallis, founder of ChemoHero.

“I was diagnosed with contralateral axillary metastasis the day after my 33rd birthday,” she said.

“I then had another 12 chemotherapy sessions, and 15 radiotherapy treatments.”

It was during her first round of treatment that Lisa came up with the idea for ChemoHero.

“All of my friends were having second babies – they were going into hospital and coming out with a baby and a bounty pack full of goodies,” said Lisa.

“Yet I was going into hospital, being told I had cancer and was going to lose all my hair, and leaving with all these drugs and paraphernalia.

“I was very, very angry; it didn’t seem fair. So I decided to do something about it.”

Chemo Hero's Lisa Wallis with members of the Colorseum team, who have supported the Boxes of Kindness Chemo Hero's Lisa Wallis with members of the Colorseum team, who have supported the Boxes of Kindness

Lisa went to Paperchase and bought some boxes, which she filled with useful items that might have made her own treatment easier – such as face wipes, tissues, diaries, snacks and treats.

She then gave these out to chemotherapy patients at North Devon District Hospital.

And the name?

“I’m the Chemo, and my son is the Hero – because without him, I might never have discovered I had cancer,” added Lisa.

The idea for ChemoHero soon grew, with local businesses sponsoring items in the boxes, and Boden Group Facilities offering ChemoHero storage space once it became a registered charity.

Now Lisa and her husband Rob, along with the help of Stanley, now aged seven, and an army of volunteers, help put the boxes together.

Lisa Wallis, founder of ChemoHero. Lisa Wallis, founder of ChemoHero.

They now contain all sorts of treats, from family passes to The Milky Way and jars of honey from Quince Honey Farm; to pill boxes funded by Ilfracombe Lions Club, and water bottles from Ilfracombe Food Servicel to hats and socks from Saltrock and tic-tacs from Youings Wholesalers.

They are given to new patients at the Seymour Unit when they come for their first treatment.

But to continue its work, ChemoHero needs businesses or groups to sponsor items in the boxes, which could be packaged with their name or branding.

Lisa added: “I don’t know what’s going to happen to me, but I want my husband and family to know I have left something special. This is my legacy.”

Businesses interested in sponsoring items or supporting the charity can contact Lisa on lisa@chemohero.com; 07713 078788 or visit chemohero.com

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