Martin Compston and Judith Ralston get behind fundraising push
A leading cancer charity’s Christmas campaign has won the backing of TV star Martin Compston and BBC weather presenter Judith Ralston.
Cancer Support Scotland offers counselling, advice and stress management to people and families affected by the disease across Scotland.
Martin backed their festive appeal Give A Little More This Christmas by retweeting the campaign to his 500,000 Twitter followers, while Judith urged Scots to make donations to the lifeline charity in a video message.
Judith, who is an ambassador for the charity, said: “I’d just like to personally thank you all for the time and support you give to Cancer support Scotland. Without your donations these key services for people suffering from cancer and their families, simply wouldn’t survive.
“Please show your support and Give A Little More This Christmas.”
Mary Carmichael and her daughter Laura Brown are the faces of the appeal and bravely shared their moving story to support the festive drive.
Mary’s world was shattered after finding out she had incurable breast cancer. Doctors delivered the heartbreaking news after tests had revealed the disease - which had initially gone undiagnosed - had spread to her lymph nodes, ribs and liver.
The 60-year-old had first gone to see her GP after experiencing pain in her breast and side, only to be told she had pleurisy.
She said: “I just knew deep down something wasn’t right.
“My doctor examined me and diagnosed pleurisy. I thought that must be the reason I felt so unwell.
“I went to Madrid on holiday and the pain became so bad I had to go to a pharmacy for painkillers. As soon as I arrived home I went straight to hospital and was told I had a blood clot in my lung.
“I was referred for more tests, then four weeks later I was told I had incurable breast cancer.
“I was completely devastated.”
Mary was sent for intensive chemotherapy every few weeks and told to shield because of Covid-19, leaving her unable to turn to family or friends in her darkest hour.
Being cut off from her daughter Laura Brown and grandchildren Kyle, 12 and Sophie, six, left her at breaking point.
She added: "I was struggling to cope and not being able to see my family took a massive toll on me.
"We are all so close and not being able to put my arms around Laura and my grandkids when I needed them most left me feeling hopeless, alone and depressed."
She says only help from Cancer Support Scotland in Glasgow's west end helped her through.
The lifeline charity, founded by the father of Glaswegian TV star Susan Calman, offers unique therapies and counselling services that complement the work of Scotland's NHS at a time when it has never been under more pressure.
Its home, the Calman Centre, is based in the grounds of Gartnavel in Glasgow's west end, within the hospital's former chapel. Sir Kenneth, Scotland's former chief medical officer, has described creating the ground-breaking support service as his 'proudest achievement'.
Mary, from Bishopbriggs, was referred there for counselling - and says they transformed her outloook.
She explained: "Just having someone to talk to about my fears and worries lifted a massive weight from my shoulders.
"The counselling sessions allowed me to come to terms with having an incurable condition and now I'm learning to live for each day. I've also learned breathing techniques for when I feel stressed or anxious.
"Living with cancer isn't easy. It's an emotional rollercoaster, but the advice and support from the charity has shown me that not only can I live a fulfilling life with cancer, I can thrive too."
Cancer Support Scotland has also been able to help Mary’s family come to terms with her diagnosis.
Daughter Laura, 34, has also been able to access the range of services available at the charity's base.
The nursery worker said: "My mum is just so brave. By the time her cancer was diagnosed it was already secondary.
"She always put on a brave face for everyone else but deep down I knew she was struggling.
"Mum has had to cope with hair loss, shielding and other side effects from the chemotherapy. That is tough for anyone, but she has had to deal with the isolation lockdown brought at the same time.
"Cancer will take over mum one day and I want my kids to know that she’s did everything she could to keep going.
"That's why the counselling sessions are so crucial. They have changed her outlook and given her a new determination to move forward.
"A mum with cancer is still a mum. Before the charity stepped in, she seemed defeated - now I’ve got my rock and my best friend back.”
Cancer Support Scotland launched its festive campaign, Give A Little More This Christmas, in a bid to raise cash to help more families like Mary's.
People from all across Scotland have been helped by the charity’s Digital Wellbeing services during this difficult time when most of their face-to-face support services have had to be reduced because of Covid-19.
Mary added: “This service has been lifeline, and I will be forever grateful for the support I was given.
"I don't want others to struggle on their own like I did, so I want Glasgow Times readers to support the charity's festival appeal. Cancer Support Scotland was there for me when I needed them, but that was only possible because of people's generosity.
"That allowed them to stay on the end of the phone to provide a lifeline for me others like me.”
The charity's chief executive Rob Murray says the organisation's role is more important than ever because of the pandemic.
He said: "Mary is an inspirational lady, as is her daughter Laura. They are a family we have been proud to be able to help.
"Their story epitomises the difference this charity can make to people's lives. At a time when our National Health Service is shouldering a huge burden, we are able to step in and provide vital services and support.
"While patients' physical wellbeing is so important, so is their mental health. The focus on that has never been more in the spotlight and we understand what people facing cancer are going through. That is why our counselling and holistic services can change outlooks - and lives.
"Coping with a cancer diagnosis can be especially difficult at this time of year, and that's why I would ask anyone who can donate to our festival appeal to please do so."
To help with the campaign, click here.