The new store is more than five times the size of a normal Cancer Research UK shop
A Dundee mum diagnosed with breast cancer just months before her fortieth birthday was chosen to open a new superstore dedicated to saving lives.
Michelle Harrow was guest of honour at the launch of Cancer Research UK’s biggest shop in Scotland which is situated at Gallagher Retail Park, Dundee. She joined cancer scientist Dr Kasper Rasmussen as VIP to cut the ribbon at the ceremony for the charity’s new superstore yesterday (Thursday 29 April). The superstore, which at 7,500 sq ft is more than five times the size of a normal Cancer Research UK shop, is the fourth of its kind in Scotland following the success of the charity’s other superstores in Edinburgh, Paisley and Irvine.
Cancer Research UK expects to see its fundraising income decline by a staggering £300 million over the next three years, due to the coronavirus pandemic. But with around 32,400 people diagnosed every year in Scotland, the charity is determined to continue its mission of funding life-saving research.
Michelle, 41, of Liff, said: “It feels incredible, overwhelming but an absolute privilege to have the honour of cutting the ribbon to launch the Dundee superstore.
“I want to show that there is life after cancer. Hearing the word cancer was frightening at first. I was young and had no history of cancer in the family. My husband who was with me when I was diagnosed was probably more shocked than me but the medical staff at the hospital were great. They said that I had come in at the right time, early enough and that progress was being made on the treatment of cancer all the time. The hardest part was telling my daughters and there were some tough moments but we got through. Now supporting other people with cancer by funding vital research is close to my heart.”
Michelle who last month raised more than £1,000 for Cancer Research UK by walking 10,000 steps every day knows exactly how vital new developments and breakthroughs are in helping people survive cancer. She recalls vividly the moment her life was turned upside down on 4 February 2019 at Ninewells Hospital when doctors told her she had cancer. Support from her family including her husband Ronnie Harrow, 49 and daughters Samantha, 22, and Beth, 12, helped Michelle through treatment including surgery then chemotherapy. By July that year, Michelle was well enough to go out for a celebration lunch with family and close friends to mark her 40th birthday. It was a welcome break ahead of 15 sessions of radiotherapy. Michelle, who is now in remission, then started the drug tamoxifen which she will take for the next 10 years and is also on the Add-Aspirin trial, a clinical trial supported by Cancer Research UK which is looking at aspirin to see if can help stop cancer coming back after treatment.
Michelle was joined at the superstore launch by Dr Kasper Rasmussen who in 2019 was awarded £1.4 million from Cancer Research UK to help understand what goes wrong in the body to cause aggressive blood cancers like acute myeloid leukaemia.
The prestigious Career Development Fellowship enabled Dr Rasmussen to set up a research group at the University of Dundee to develop research that could bring a ceasefire to cellular warfare taking place within DNA that can cause blood cancers.
Dr Rasmussen, 39, said: “By studying how life-threatening blood cancers such as leukaemia arise in the blood-forming stem cells in the body, we hope to improve our understanding of the biology of the earliest gene mutations that promote these diseases. I hope my team’s research will lead to new treatment strategies better directed against leukaemia to improve patient outcomes.”
The Dundee superstore is selling everything from furniture to electrical items, clothing and soft furnishings, gifts and women’s, men’s and children’s wear- with profits going to fund research.
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Michelle and hope her inspiring story encourages people to support the charity so that we can continue to fund the very best scientists in Scotland and across the UK.
“Covid-19 has slowed us down, but we will never stop. Our research has played a role in developing eight of the world’s top 10 cancer drugs and we’re working hard to raise funds and find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease. It has been a challenging time but our new superstore in Dundee is worth celebrating as it will fund world-class research to help more people survive cancer.”
Customers are a key part of helping to get the charity’s life-saving work back on track, so strict measures are being followed to ensure people in Dundee can shop, volunteer and donate goods safely.
These include social distancing, hand sanitiser stations, cough guards at till points, face coverings for shop staff and volunteers and additional cleaning.
Cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress. But more funds and supporters are needed to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.
The Dundee superstore will be open Monday to Saturday, 9.30am until 7pm, and Sundays 10am to 6pm.
Dundee superstore manager Ewan Dollery said more volunteers are needed at the store and donations of furniture, good-quality clothes, shoes, bags, books and homeware are welcome. Every bag of donated items could raise up to £25 - or £31 with Gift Aid if the donor is a UK taxpayer - money that’s desperately needed to fund crucial research.
For more information about Cancer Research UK’s shops, visit www.cruk.org/shops or follow @CRUKShops on Instagram or Twitter.