Brave Lisa backs chemotherapy appeal

Barnstaple mum recalls cancer battle and pledges support for a brand new local chemotherapy facility

FEW people can appreciate the importance of local cancer care as much as Lisa Bousted.

As a 19-year-old living in Barnstaple, Lisa was diagnosed with cancer of the uterus and had to make weekly trips to London’s Charing Cross Hospital to receive life-saving chemotherapy treatment.

She nearly died three times and although she made a full recovery, was told it was unlikely that she would ever have children.

Twenty years’ later, the now married mum-of-four spoke to the Gazette about the life-changing series of events of 1992 and to lend her support to a �2.2million appeal to build a new chemotherapy unit in North Devon.

As Lisa waited anxiously to hear the results of hospital scans, a nurse sat on the end of her bed clutching an A5 yellow booklet with the word “chemotherapy” written on the front.

Seconds later, the cancer consultant delivered the devastating news that would change her life for ever.

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Just a day earlier, Lisa was asked to attend North Devon District Hospital for routine tests but within an hour she was being transferred to Charing Cross Hospital in London.

She would not leave the hospital for seven weeks. With inadequate local chemotherapy facilities in North Devon, the terrified teenager had no choice but to embark on a painful – and often lonely – six-month journey of treatment and recovery away from the sanctuary of family and friends.

“It was the hardest time of my life; coming from Devon, Charing Cross was such a big hospital and I felt very alone,” said Lisa, now 39.

“It was in the days before email and mobile phones so friends and family sent me phone cards so that I could keep in touch. My boyfriend at the time changed his job so that he could come up and see me every weekend. My sister couldn’t afford to travel to London and I didn’t know if I’d ever see her again.”

Miles away from home and the people she loved, Lisa formed friendships with other patients, some of whom sadly died during her stay.

“I remember talking to a young mum-of-two who was admitted on a Friday and was so poorly, the nurses arranged for her to marry her boyfriend in hospital. She died on the Sunday; it gave me nightmares for a long time.

“I had to try and deal with everything on my own and couldn’t rely on a shoulder to cry on or anyone to give me hug and tell me everything was going to be ok.”

When Lisa was eventually allowed home, she still had to undergo weekly chemotherapy in London and North Devon, with 24-hour treatment administered at Charing Cross and eight-hour courses taken on a normal ward in Barnstaple.

“It was a lot better being able to receive the shorter treatment in Barnstaple, but for a young girl with no hair it was still a daunting experience,” said Lisa, who has since made a full recovery.

“There were no real chemotherapy facilities here at the time and I was put in a different ward each week. Although I could have a friend or family member sit with me, there were no other people like me that I could talk to for support.

“To have a dedicated facility in North Devon would be amazing; if we had a unit like this when I was ill, my experience would have been so different.

“I was a young girl when I was diagnosed with cancer so I know that it’s an illness that can happen to anyone at any time.

“My mum died of cancer four years ago so I’ve also seen the effect the illness can have on families and friends. Being able to talk to other people who know what you’re going through is so important.”

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