WHEN Esther Fox was going through treatment for breast cancer her son was her rock.

Kind-hearted Robert took time off work to go to every appointment, spoke to the consultants for his mum and came to pick her up at Maggie’s Centre.

And his amazing efforts were all the more extraordinary given the additional strain the family was under.

When Esther was first diagnosed, Robert and his dad, also Robert, were in Spain where Esther's mother-in-law had suffered a heart attack.

She was then diagnosed with cancer a year after Esther, in August 2018, and died in December, the same month as Esther's mother.

But the family stayed strong and rallied together.

Esther, a housing support worker for the homeless, said: "My treatment finished in October 2017.

"I don’t think I would have got through it without Harvey, my labradoodle, who was always by my side, as well as my amazing family, including my cousins who have always been there for me, my very good friends and my neighbours, who made me lovely meals.

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"my son, Robert, is amazing. He came to pick me up at Maggie’s Centre when I couldn’t stop crying; he has been a rock.

"But he can’t bring himself to read my cancer journal, even though my husband has read it – I think it’s because my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer in August 2018 and died in December, the same month as my mother, so my son lost both his grandmothers, and my husband is still grieving too.

"It has been a very emotional time for me too, but I know there are many people worse off than me.

"I met a lot of people during my treatment who knew they were not going to get better but were still able to be cheerful.

"I feel blessed that my first mammogram following treatment last year showed the all-clear and am hoping for the same again this year."

Esther, 56, went to her GP having not heard back from a mammogram in 2017.

After further tests she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She said: "I had gone to the breast clinic with my best friend, as my husband and son were in Spain, where my mother-in-law had had a heart attack.

"The worst part was having to break the news about my cancer to the family over the phone.

"At the hospital the following week I was told I would need surgery, although the doctors couldn’t say until they did it whether it would be a lumpectomy or a mastectomy.

"They did anticipate I would need plastic surgery to get the scarring put right and called a plastic surgeon in.

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"I had the operation in May 2017 and a sample of my breast tissue was sent to a clinic in Texas to see whether I would need chemotherapy to follow.

"Ten weeks later I was told I would, as the scoring had come back quite high."

Esther endured four cycles of chemotherapy, which left her with peripheral neuropathy in her legs and nerve damage, before 28 sessions of radiotherapy.

She added: "I never cried at home about any of this because my husband Robert was so distraught that I felt I couldn’t show my feelings.

"But the one time I did cry was when I went into Maggie’s Centre before the start of my chemo and saw all these people who had lost their hair.

"Then I just couldn’t stop crying; maybe it was a sort of relief."

Esther went back to work full-time in March to a job she says she loves and will now run Race For Life with her son Robert, 28.

She added: "I love fundraising too, and walked the Race For Life in 2018 even though I have been left in so much pain from the neuropathy that I can’t stretch my legs out some mornings.

"I get serious cramps and three changes of medication have produced no improvement.

"In spite of that, doing the Race with all my friends – every one of them a best friend – was a great day out, and I raised nearly £3000.

"Now I'm planning to do it this year."

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New research from Race for Life shows nearly half - 47 per cent - of people diagnosed with cancer said they found it hard to ask for help from friends, family and colleagues after they were diagnosed.

Fears included being pitied, and feeling pressure to stay strong in front of family and friends.

The study of more than 500 UK adults also showed women find it harder than men to ask for help.

The research has been released by Race for Life to encourage people across the country to join their local event with their own support network.

For the first time, Race for Life events are now open to men, women and children of all abilities, joining together to beat cancer.

There are more than 400 events across the UK between May and October, and all money raised supports research into all 200 types of cancer.

Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at Cancer Research UK, said: "On our helpline, we speak to people every day who find it hard to talk to their family and friends about how they’re feeling.

"Usually this is because they don’t want to be a burden or are frightened of getting emotional but talking helps and can bring people together.

"Family and friends want to be supportive, but often don’t know how best to support their loved one.

"As well as talking, taking part in events like Race for Life is a great way for groups to join together and support people with cancer, whilst helping fund life-saving cancer research."

To join the Race for Life see raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770.

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