Cancer survivor backing our Accelerator Appeal
A COURAGEOUS grandmother who fought back from breast cancer three times in 26 years is pledging to support the "fantastic" doctors and nurses who saved her life.
Pensioner Valerie Snape, from Coley Park, is making a donation to our Accelerator Appeal to raise £100,000 towards a new Linear Accelerator (Linac) radiotherapy machine for the Royal Berkshire Hospital's Berkshire Cancer Centre.
The 68-year-old grandmother-of-two from Trelleck Road, said: "The staff there mean everything to me. If it wasn't for their care I wouldn't be here now. They've been fantastic and if we can improve radiotherapy, more and more people can have a better chance against cancer."
Mrs Snape, a former teaching assistant at Coley Park Primary (now St Mary and All Saints Primary) began radiotherapy there in 1979 when oncologists found a lump in her left breast.
She said: "When I first heard, I was absolutely shattered, I didn't think it would ever happen to me. Back in those days I didn't know of anyone it had happened to and I felt I was on my own."
But, despite surgery to remove the tumour, the disease returned, and in 1986, after more radiotherapy and a six month chemotherapy course, specialists performed a mastectomy. But in 2005 doctors found a lump in her right breast and she returned for her third radiotherapy course and more chemotherapy.
Mrs Snape added: "I thought I was clear and suddenly it hits again. It was shocking and I was beginning to wonder if I would survive."
Surgeons finally removed the tumour, but she returns to the centre for annual check-ups to ensure against a re-occurrence.
She thinks facilities have improved in "leaps and bounds" since the 1970s, and added: "The treatment was a lot more brutal then. It burned your skin, but now they can pinpoint it more accurately. It used to affect my throat, but I didn't get as many side effects the last time.
"The centre's a lot nicer now. When I first went you were waiting in a corridor but it's all refurbished now with a nice open department which makes you feel much calmer, but I can't fault them for any of the treatment they've given me."
*Mrs Snape also spent 18 years volunteering for the hospital, beginning in 1988 as a welcomer, directing patients to appointments, before working as a buggy driver to ferry frail and elderly people to their destinations. In 2006 she was among volunteers honoured to meet the Queen when she visited Battle Block.