Ripon cancer survivor pledges help to others

Leigh Naylor, front, and fellow Cancer Research UK volunteers Gemma Orton, Natalie Cullen and Rachel Speight. (110330AR5pic2)
Leigh Naylor, front, and fellow Cancer Research UK volunteers Gemma Orton, Natalie Cullen and Rachel Speight. (110330AR5pic2)
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A RIPON woman diagnosed with cervical cancer at 29 - the same age reality TV star Jade Goody died of the disease - has spoken of her ordeal.

Leigh Naylor, of Maple Walk, Ripon, was given the devastating diagnosis after what should have been a straightforward operation to remove a growth.

“I first got symptoms in March 2009,” said Leigh.

“And I knew something was wrong.

“I went in for the surgery and the doctors said the growth was nothing to worry about but it was better to have it removed sooner rather than later.”

But six hours after the operation a doctor came to see her and started talking about a tumour.

“I had no idea what was going on,” Leigh said.

“I asked what she meant by a tumour. She took a deep breath and said, ‘It looks like a large cancer tumour.’

“All I could think was that I was going to die.

“Large cancer tumour doesn’t sound good.

“I was in bits, didn’t eat at all and lost over half a stone in weight.”

Leigh turned to her friend Marianne Bainbridge, a nurse for support.

“I related it to being the same as Jade Goody – same age, same cancer – but Marianne told me that cervical cancer is not the death sentence I thought it was.

“It’s treatable and Jade Goody was an extreme case.”

A week later she went back to hospital and the cancer was confirmed.

She started on a gruelling five week course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

It was, Leigh said, an exhausting ordeal, and each appointment left her terrified she would hear her treatment was not working.

But that did not happen and a year later she is still clear of the disease.

She faces a final MRI scan next month and if the results are good she will just need check-ups for the next five years.

Leigh said the doctors and nurses who cared for her through her treatment were “amazing” and described support from husband Stuart, her mother, a close group of friends and an understanding employer as invaluable.

“I don’t know how I would have coped without them,” she said.

Now Leigh wants to help others who are suffering from the disease.

“I want more people to know that cancer doesn’t mean death.

“Treatments are very successful these days and cancer isn’t the disease it used to be. There are a lot of success stories.”

She is working toward setting up a Cancer Research group in Ripon to raise money and awareness of the disease.

The closest volunteer fundraising group is currently in Harrogate, and Leigh is looking for Ripon-based volunteers with unusual and interesting money-making ideas.

“We want to find unusual events,” she said.

“We are thinking of maybe a club night, a mini-festival with local bands or a masked ball.”

Leigh is planning a fundraising fashion show featuring dancers from her own “Naylor Dance Academy” and fashion store LK Bennett on Thursday, May 19. Tickets cost £12 and are available from Leigh or from LK Bennett in Harrogate.

She is also encouraging as many people as possible help out by volunteering at Harrogate’s Race for Life on Sunday, June 5.

To get involved with the Ripon fundraising group contact Leigh on 07792014640 or email leigh-leigh@hotmail.co.uk.