A mum-of-two who discovered she had breast cancer thanks to a routine mammogram provided by her employer Marks & Spencer raised £4,200 for a charity close to her heart – with a little help from colleagues and customers of the same store.
Karen Laskey, 54, of Ingleby Barwick, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 and took the rest of the year off work from her job as a sales assistant as she fought the disease.
With the support of her husband Geoff and their two sons Alex, 27, and Ben, 24, Karen, left and below, bravely faced her gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment with hope and optimism and returned to work again in January 2015.
And when it came to her M&S store at Teesside Park, Stockton, choosing its charity of the year in April 2015, the support Karen received from Trinity Holistic Centre on the site of The James Cook University Hospital was uppermost in her mind.
“Going through radiotherapy and chemotherapy, you feel so rough, and going to Trinity Holistic Centre was just so relaxing and made me feel a little bit better about myself while I was going through the treatment,” she explained.
“Although it’s in the hospital grounds, you don’t feel like you’ve come to hospital when you are in here. It has a different atmosphere and it’s just lovely.
“It provides a chance for you to do something nice for yourself rather than just having cancer treatment.”
At Trinity Holistic Centre, Karen benefitted from massage, aromatherapy and acupuncture – all “nice things” that complemented her clinical treatment for cancer.
She explained the “lovely” massages helped to relieve some of the many aches and pains and severe flu-like symptoms that come as a side effect to cancer treatment.
Auricular acupuncture also helps with symptoms like hot flushes that can result from cancer treatment in both men and women.
“All the therapies complement the medical side of your treatment,” she said.
“Before I had cancer, I might have gone for a facial or treated myself to something like that.
“This provided me with a little bit of normality in life at a difficult time, but the treatments were that bit more gentle, as they know what you are going through.”
Karen said she couldn’t believe such a “fantastic service” was available to cancer patients free of charge.
“It’s an extra service that some people may still be unaware of and they also do things for families of people affected by cancer too,” she said.
As well as complementary therapies, Trinity Holistic Centre offers a number of wellbeing services, counselling, a beautiful garden to sit in – and even just a friendly place to pop in for a cuppa and a chat between hospital appointments.
“It is really invaluable to have this available for free, which is why I wanted to raise money for it,” said Karen.
Efforts from bake sales to bag packing at the M&S Teesside Park store where she works took her fundraising total to a staggering £4,200.
Karen, who still has regular follow-up checks at hospital since fighting the disease, said: “I would just like to say thank you to the customers and my colleagues.
“Not only did they donate funds, but they also helped with events like bag packing and other fundraising activities.
“I’m very grateful for all their support.”
Karen also thanked her “wonderful” husband Geoff and the couple’s two sons for helping her through a difficult time in her life.
“They were so supportive – nobody should go through cancer treatment on their own,” said Karen.
“All the family have been fantastic.”
Heather McLean, Trinity Holistic Centre manager, said: “Our whole team is over the moon with the fantastic fundraising efforts of Karen, her colleagues and, of course, the customers of Marks & Spencer.
“We always strive to do everything we can to support individuals and families affected by cancer at what can be a difficult and lonely time.
“This donation will make a huge difference in our ability to continue providing this support and care, which meant so much to Karen.”