Businesswoman Lindsay Lambert is backing a Cancer Research UK campaign to help save more lives, as the charity fights back from the impact of the pandemic.
WARNING: STORY AND VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC AND PERSONAL DETAILS
And the 59-year-old has bravely spoken out candidly about her own battle, revealing in personal detail about how her life has changed – but how she refuses to let her bag and ‘Barbie butt’ stop her wearing sexy and fashionable clothes.
When Lindsay heard the words ‘you have cancer’, her life was about to change in ways she could never have imagined.
She has had to adapt to living with a ‘new body’ after being diagnosed with bowel cancer in May 2016.
But, thanks to research into better diagnostics and treatments, she is now celebrating five years clear and wants to pay tribute to the people who supported her through her cancer journey.
To Lindsay, these precious individuals are not only her family, friends and her medical team, but those she doesn’t know in person - the tireless army of fundraisers, volunteers and donors who help to fund lifesaving research.
That’s why she’s highlighting a powerful new short film from Cancer Research UK, which underlines how everyone has a part to play in the fight against the disease.
It features the rallying call to arms: “One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime*. All of us can support the research that will beat it.”
It’s a sobering statistic, but Lindsay hopes her story will inspire people to make a difference and become a part of the solution to this devastating disease.
Before her diagnosis, Lindsay, was fit, healthy and full of life. She worked long hours at the successful business she owns, the Lindsay Lambert Permanent Makeup Academy in Doncaster, and in her free time loved socialising with friends and long walks in the Dales with husband Kev, 58, and their dog.
In 2016, Lindsay, then 54, was enjoying a two-week dream holiday in the Maldives with Kev. One night after dinner, she started to feel unwell with what she thought was an upset stomach. However, when she went to the toilet, all that came out was blood. But Lindsay thought it might just be piles, so brushed it away and got on with enjoying her holiday.
When Lindsay returned home and went back to work, a colleague noticed her rubbing her tummy in pain.
Lindsay explained: “I told my assistant what had happened on holiday. She was shocked and she insisted that I go see my GP, which fortunately was just next door to my business.
"I had an internal examination and they could feel something lumpy, very low down, just inside my bottom. Within minutes they were on the phone to Doncaster Royal Infirmary to be fast tracked for further investigations.”
Lindsay had several tests over a number of days.
Between having a CT scan and later a colonoscopy, Kev took Lindsay shopping to the York Designer Outlet to try and take her mind of things.
“I suddenly needed the loo and rushed to the toilets, into an end cubicle. But as I sat down, it all came out with such a force I spattered the toilet with bright red blood. It even went up the walls. I was in shock, shaking, but I had to clean it up and myself as best I could.
"I couldn’t let someone go in there after me, it was like a horror movie. Kev took me straight home, we drove all the way back in silence, not able to find the words to say. We both knew things were obviously very serious.”
When Lindsay and Kev went back for the results of all the tests a few days later, she was given the devastating news that she had stage 2 bowel cancer. There was a 2 cm growth in her rectum, but fortunately the cancer had spread outside of her bowel wall.
Lindsay was told she would need major surgery at Doncaster Royal Infirmary. The procedure would be an abdominal-perineal resection (APR) – which meant the removal of her anus, rectum and part of the large bowel.
It would also mean Lindsay would need to have a colostomy. This is when the surgeon makes an opening in the skin of the tummy and stitches the end of the bowel to the opening, called a stoma. A bag is worn over the stoma to collect poo (faeces). In Lindsay’s case this would be permanent, there was no possibility of a reversal, so she would need to wear a stoma bag for the rest of her life.
She said: “I didn’t care what they needed to do. I wanted to have the surgery as soon as possible and went down to the theatre with my thumbs up. I just wanted them to take everything out, whatever was needed to beat my cancer.”
The surgery, which took over seven hours, was successful and Lindsay was in hospital for eight days before returning home to rest and recover.
But one night she turned over in her sleep and woke up to find herself bleeding profusely from her vagina. “There was blood everywhere, all over the sheets. It was very scary for both of us.
"Apparently, a large haematoma developed in my abdomen after the surgery. The action of me turning over in bed had cracked it loose. It had nowhere to go as I now had no anus, so it came out the only other way possible, probably helped by me having a hysterectomy a few years earlier. It was very scary.
"I went to A&E and they admitted me for a couple of days while they sorted me out.”
Lindsay, who has two grown up daughters and shares eight grandchildren with Kev, decided to face her new life and body full on, with her typically positive personality. She said: “I looked in a full-length mirror just after my surgery. I had no anus, rectum or lower bowel - so I now have what I call a Barbie butt! I asked if I could get designer stoma bags to stop it looking so medical, but I didn’t want to hide it away or hide the fact that I now had to poo in a bag either.”
Lindsay continued her recovery and went back to work early, after just three months, taking in her stride the adaptations and changes she now had to make in her day to day life. She said: “I had been through so much, fear engulfed me, I didn’t want to die. But things could have been so much worse. I have so much more life yet to live, so much more to do and I wasn’t going to let cancer, or a stoma bag, stop me doing that.
“I am proud of being a survivor and I want to play my part and make a difference for others too. I want to break down the fear of a stoma, educate more people about them, to be brave and not to hide it away. I want to show other people going through this, and those close to them, that they can be brave too.
“I still wear fashionable clothes and even a bikini on holiday, with my bag proudly on view. However, it’s a problem finding fashionable clothes that work around wearing a stoma, I don’t want dowdy elasticated skirts or large smocks to cover my bag. I’m slim and have always dressed in an edgy style and I still wanted to wear jeans and look the way I always looked before cancer. I even did a fashion shoot, proudly showing my bag. Now I’d love to help more people and perhaps offer advice on what clothes to wear, maybe even start my own brand or online stoma shop. It’s a very scary time for us ‘stomamates’, learning to adapt to dressing with body changes and leakage, so if I can help just one person it would make it all worthwhile. Having cancer is bad enough, why do we need to be punished even more by looking frumpy too!”
Lindsay, who now lives in Thorne, has just had her last blood test and if that remains OK, she will have got to the magic five years and her official all clear. Now she can start to think about how she will celebrate her 60th birthday in December.
And her advice for anyone who feels something isn’t right: “Don’t ignore your symptoms, get checked out. There’s fantastic information and advice about all types of cancer, what to look out for and what the tests and treatments are, on the Cancer Research UK website, explained in a really easy to understand way.”
After her own cancer experience, Lindsay understands the importance of Cancer Research UK’s work, and is the charity she chooses to support.
“As a result of the pandemic, cancer is as urgent an issue now as it’s ever been. With so many people affected, we’re all in this together, so I hope that people across Doncaster will follow in my footsteps and play their part. Every action – big or small – helps Cancer Research UK to ensure more people, like me, survive.”
In Yorkshire and The Humber, around 31,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year.
Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, Cancer Research UK’s work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has been at the heart of the progress that has seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.
Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Yorkshire, said: “We are grateful to Lindsay for her support. COVID-19 has hit us hard, but we are more focussed than ever on our ambition of seeing 3 in 4 people survive their cancer by 2034.
“This past year proves, more than any other, the value of research and what can be achieved together. Just like science is our route out of the pandemic, science is our route to beating cancer.
“That’s why we want to harness the ‘people power’ of our incredible supporters, because the progress we make relies on every hour of research, every pound donated and everyone who gets involved.
“So, whether they give £2 a month, sign up to Race for Life, volunteer at our shops or pledge to leave a gift in their Will - with the help of people in Doncaster we believe that together we will beat cancer.”
Cancer Research UK was able to spend over £5 million in Yorkshire last year on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.
Play a part in supporting life-saving research at cruk.org.
PLAY A PART
Every hour, around 4 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire and The Humber.
Over the last few decades, thanks to the collective effort of supporters in the region and across the UK, Cancer Research UK has saved lives by:
Helping to double breast cancer survival over the last 40 years
Being a key player in the development of radiotherapy, which now benefits more than 130,000 patients every year in the UK
Helping to prove the value of cervical screening, which prevents thousands of deaths every year
There are lots of different ways people in Doncaster can support the research that will beat cancer, including:
Donating or fundraising
Signing up to Race for Life, taking place at Doncaster Town Fields on Sunday 19 September
Volunteering at a Cancer Research UK shop or event
Pledging to leave a gift in their Will to the charity
Find out more at cruk.org.