Julie's thrilled to be married

On 14 May 2015 York Against Cancer fundraiser Julie Harrison was due to get married to her partner Christopher Blackburn but instead she was in the middle of treatment for the breast cancer she’d found only weeks before her wedding day.

“I was in the shower and I felt a lump,” she said. “I knew I needed to go to the doctor but at that time I didn’t really think it could be anything.

“But I saw the doctor and within a week they had got me to hospital. I had a mammogram and a biopsy, went into a room afterwards to see the consultant and he said: ‘I am not completely sure, but I think that this is cancer.’”

The consultant turned out to be right. For Julie, mum of four-year-old Henry, it was the end of wedding preparations and the start of months of surgery and radiotherapy. She had to call off her ceremony at the Merchant Taylors’ Hall in York and break the news to all her friends and family.

Thankfully, Julie’s prognosis was a good one. No cancer was found in her lymph nodes and after a mastectomy and reconstruction it was decided that she would need radiotherapy, rather than chemotherapy, at St James’s Hospital, Leeds.

“I was quite calm and positive,” says Julie. “You feel that you are in the best hands you could be.” It was, however, tough for her mum and for her partner, Chris.

“My mum was really upset. She was wishing it was her. You never think something is going to happen to your child – she was more upset than I was. Chris was quite quiet to begin with. It is something that they can’t make go away and it is hard for people to think of that – it affects the family as well as yourself.

“I have been really honest with Henry all along. I explained that Mummy was poorly. He has been a little bit clingy, he wants to be with his mummy but he has taken it in his stride, really.”

Julie had been a longstanding charity fundraiser, supporting York Against Cancer because of the support her aunt received while a cancer patient many years ago.

With a background in the theatre – she had trained in stage management and worked at York Theatre Royal before having her son - she’d held a concert to raise cash for the charity and went on to be involved in York Rocks Against Cancer and York Swings Against Cancer.

Now she was a user of the charity’s services herself, with advice, support and therapy at York Hospital’s Cancer Care Centre and a stay at the York Against Cancer respite apartment in Whitby. It made her even more passionate about the charity.

The Cancer Care Centre is a fantastic, fantastic place,” she said. “The staff there must be trained specially, they are so lovely. It doesn’t feel clinical, it feels really nice.”

One of the highlights of her care was a Look Good, Feel Better session attended by beauty workers from York stores. “It’s like a pamper day, with people who know how to use make-up cleansing your face and doing full make-up on you. There’s help with wigs for people who have lost all their hair, and at the end of the day you get this really big goodie bag with lovely brands like Lancome and Estee Lauder. It’s just something that makes ladies smile when they are going through a hard time.”

Julie also found the charity’s respite apartment, a penthouse with panoramic views over Whitby, a tremendous boost after her treatment ended in September.

“It is an amazing apartment,” she said. “It is a real home from home. To get that rest at the end of the treatment and to have my family with me… just to see them smile was wonderful, because it’s not just you going through this, it is everyone. Watching Henry playing on the beach, and everyone looking out to sea – it was so calming.

“You come to realise how much a local charity can mean to people. Large charities do a lot, but a local charity is something to be proud of, you can really see the benefits of it.”

Julie says she is on the mend now. She’s back at work and taking part in fundraisers again. And this spring included an even more important date for Julie. She became a bride at last, getting married almost exactly a year after her wedding should have gone ahead.