Primrose Foundation

Helen Huish, aged 69, is a truly inspiring woman. After fighting breast cancer, Helen has raised approximately £20,000 for the Primrose Foundation, over a period of 18 years - making her the charity's longest and biggest fundraiser to date.

Since 1995, Helen has hosted coffee mornings, charity suppers and raffles in her home town of Bideford. She first decided to host a fundraising event six months after finishing her treatment for breast cancer, as she wanted to give back to the breast care nurses and doctors who offered her such kind care and support during her cancer fight.

Helen explained: “I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995 at the age of 48, which didn’t come as a huge surprise as my mother had breast cancer. I went for a screening at Derriford Hospital and the results showed that I had two thick lines in my breast tissue. At the time they didn't usually operate because of these lines, but did explain that it’s underneath them where tumours sometimes form.

I offered myself as a Guinea pig

“I offered myself as a Guinea pig and asked whether they wanted to operate on me to remove the lines, which they said they would do if I was prepared to go through with it. When they performed the operation and removed the lines they found a tumour underneath, which didn’t show up in the mammograms.”

It was quite a discovery and the doctors and nurses at Derriford Hospital learnt a lot from Helen’s case; she later found out that the images from her mammograms were being shared up-and-down the country between breast care specialists and researchers.

Helen continued: “I had to have a second operation - this time to remove the breast cancer tumour and I chose to have a full mastectomy. The treatment and care I received was second-to-none - the nurses made me feel safe, it almost felt like nothing was wrong.”

All of Helen’s treatment was received years before the Primrose Breast Care Centre was built at Derriford Hospital, therefore she had to travel between locations in the hospital for tests and scans. She even had to attend a completely different hospital, Freedom Fields, which no longer exists, for different elements of her treatment.

She said: “It was quite tiring and uncomfortable having to constantly undress and dress when at Derriford Hospital, because you had to walk to a different part of the hospital to have your next test done. The unit they have at the hospital now, where everything is in one place, is brilliant and makes patients feel comfortable and at ease.”

There are so many stories to tell from over the years

Helen’s momentous stretch of fundraising first started with a charity supper at the North Devon Yacht Club, which raised approximately £500 and the money went towards funding an electric scalpel used to reduce bleeding and tissue trauma. The event was such a huge success and so well supported by Helen’s family and friends that she decided to do it year-on-year and she never looked back.

She said: “I have some wonderful memories from the fundraising events that I hosted and it’s always nice to know the money raised went towards such a worthy cause. There are so many stories to tell from over the years, one of my proudest moments was when I was presented with a glass bowl engraved with primroses, by a friend, to be auctioned at a Charity Event held at Tavistock where it sold for £300.

“I have decided to cease organising fundraising events for the charity, but I will always offer my support to the Primrose Foundation when they need it.”

Sue Hobbs, Chair of the Primrose Foundation, comments: “We cannot thank Helen enough for the years of support and funds she has provided to our charity. She is such an inspirational character and we have been incredibly lucky."