A mum from Alderley Edge with incurable bowel cancer is calling on people across Cheshire to help tackle the devastating loss of funding for cancer research, caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Businesswoman and broadcaster Michelle Mullane was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in June last year after being rushed to hospital in an ambulance with severe stomach pains.
Now she is backing a new campaign to help Cancer Research UK continue its mission as it launches an urgent new appeal for donations to help get life-saving work back on track.
Following the cancellation of fundraising events like Race for Life, the charity is expecting a staggering £160 million drop in income in the year ahead.
As a result, Cancer Research UK has had to make the difficult decision to cut £44 million in research funding, but this is likely to be just the beginning.
The 50-year-old said: "I never in a million years thought I'd have cancer – it was the furthest thing from my mind. Looking back now, I'd been feeling unusually tired and experiencing some cramping for a few months, but I put that down to living a busy life.
"Then one night I was throwing up for hours and experiencing the most excruciating pain in my stomach. The pain was worse than anything I'd ever experienced, even worse than childbirth.
"It got to midnight and I called an ambulance. I couldn't stand up and to be honest I would have gone to hospital naked, I was beyond caring at that point."
Michelle was rushed to Macclesfield Hospital where doctors discovered a life-threatening obstruction on her bowel.
Michelle – who is a former XFM and Key 103 Radio presenter – said: "The room filled up with people and that's when the doctors told me I had incurable bowel cancer. That moment changed my life. They said I'd have six months to live without treatment."
Her 23-year-old daughter Liv was also in the hospital room when doctors delivered the diagnosis.
Michelle said: "My daughter physically shook and fell to the floor. The outlook seemed very bleak and neither of us could believe what was happening. Here I was in a hospital bed with a tube down my nose being pumped with painkillers – it was all totally surreal."
Michelle had a stent fitted to push the tumour to one side and began a course of chemotherapy at The Christie in Manchester – a regular treatment she continues to have today.
Michelle said: "Here I am a year on from being diagnosed and feeling extremely grateful. When you have cancer your only priority is to stay alive and it's thanks to treatment that my disease is being managed and I am still here today.
"My daughter thinks that sometimes I forget I'm on chemotherapy, but whilst the drugs are busy controlling the tumour, I intend to get on with life and live it to the full. Having a bit of energy is just the best feeling in the world."
Michelle is currently studying for a PhD in Sports Psychology while juggling her media work and also appearing as a regular guest on BBC Radio Manchester.
She said: "Science has benefitted me so much and I want other people who get a diagnosis know that there is often hope to be found in these situations. Along with the challenges that come with a chronic illness, I also have good days that I really cherish. And one of the sides effects of the chemo is that I've developed a taste for red wine, which was unexpected!"
Michelle is busy planning a range of fundraising events for the Cancer Research UK, including a charity sky dive and a celebrity-filled comedy event in Manchester. By sharing her story, she also hopes to inspire people across the North West to donate now.
She said: "My experience means I understand the importance of Cancer Research UK's work all too clearly. It's thanks to improved treatments that I've been given more precious time with my loved ones – so it upsets me to think about research being delayed and what this might mean for people affected by cancer in the months and years to come.
"By boosting funding now, we can all help to lessen the future impact on patients. So, I hope that people across Cheshire and North West will be moved by the charity's determination to carry on beating cancer and give what they can. They could make a real difference to people like me."
Cancer Research UK's work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has been at the heart of progress that has seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.
Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, the charity currently funds around 50 per cent of all publicly funded cancer research in the UK.
However, as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, promising projects which could have the big answers to cancer are being held up.
Anna Taylor, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Cheshire, said: "We are incredibly grateful to Michelle for her fantastic support. Thanks to research she is enjoying precious time with her family and friends.
"However, COVID-19 has put so much of our research on pause, leaving Cancer Research UK facing a crisis where every day and every pound counts.
"With over 40,000 people diagnosed with cancer each year in the North West*, we will never stop striving to create better treatments. But we can't do it alone.
"Whether they donate, sign up to Race for Life at Home or shop at our stores - with the help of people in the North West, we believe that together we will still beat cancer."
Cancer Research UK was able to spend over £30 million in the North West last year on some of the UK's leading scientific and clinical research.
You can donate at www.cruk.org/give