‘I’m going to start living life to the full’

SHE has won her battle with cancer and now courageous Debra Slesser’s dedication has won her an inspirational award before she steps out on her Great North Run journey.

SHE has won her battle with cancer and now courageous Debra Slesser’s dedication has won her an inspirational award before she steps out on her Great North Run journey.

Jessica Slesser, Debra Slesser

The mum was named winner of the Spirit of South Tyneside Awards, which recognises bravery and adversity among run competitors.

She has been diagnosed with a gene which gives her nine-year-old daughter Jessica a 50% chance of contracting breast cancer. Mrs Slesser’s mother died of the condition when Debra was nine.

The awards, set up five years ago, will make a £1,000 donation to a charity of her choice, something she wants to keep local. Although she will be raising money for breast cancer charity Walk the Walk when she completes her first Great North Run on Sunday with friends Elaine Campbell, 45, and Sandra Raine, 36, she decided to give the money to South Tyneside’s Cancer Connections.

The charity hopes to buy a house in South Shields as a centre for people with cancer, their families and survivors to meet for support and advice. Mrs Slesser, 39, of Ada Street, South Shields, said: “I was totally gobsmacked when I found out I had won. I actually thought it was a wind-up, but I’m just absolutely delighted.

“I remember when I was having my treatment there was a centre in Hexham which was doing treatments like reflexology and massages, but I never used it because it was too far away, so the money will go towards helping local people access this amazing cause.”

Diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2005, she had 11-hour reconstructive surgery earlier this year. She had previously been referred to Newcastle’s Centre For Life, where she was found to have the gene BRCA2. Her mother Sheila Rogers died of breast cancer in 1977, aged 41, and her father George lost his fight with lung cancer in 2000, aged 65.

Mrs Slesser, married to Graham, 43, said: “It means that my daughter has a 50% chance that it could be passed on.

“Because I had a mastectomy in my right side there was an 80% risk that it would return, which is why I opted to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction. I also had my ovaries out because the gene was linked to ovarian cancer. I was 36 when I was diagnosed, my mam had breast cancer when she was 32 and my sister was 34, so I knew there was a high risk of it being genetic. I was nine when my mam died, which is the same age my daughter is now. I just keep thinking I want to see my daughter grow up.

“But I couldn’t have gotten through all this without my family and friends. I’m returning to work next week and I’m 40 soon and they say that’s when life begins, so I’m going to start to live life to the full.”

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