Rebecca Ward (née Barnard) 84-91G
Rebecca Ward (née Barnard) 84-91G
I was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia at the age of 33 when Samuel, the youngest of my four sons, was just 8 months old, and Robert, William and David were still only 6, 4 and 3. It was a distressing time for all of us, including both sets of grandparents; no parent wants to see their child diagnosed with a potentially fatal illness.
Up until my illness, I had always enjoyed being active and fit, pushing my limits wherever possible. I grew up on a farm and enjoyed running and hiking at school. I kept very fit by ballroom dancing several nights a week and cycling everywhere while studying for my Zoology degree at Bristol. I continued in this pattern by joining the West Midlands Police (and will admit to enjoying public order training!), and was fortunate enough to have my wonderful boys and still have energy to give to village groups.
However, my life, and that of my family, changed completely 6½ years ago when I was diagnosed with leukaemia. Whilst being fortunate to be alive, I go through ups and downs with fatigue and other side effects from my illness and medication.
In the last 10 years the treatment of Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia has progressed dramatically and has transformed the prognosis for many patients. It is not necessarily a life sentence. We now take oral chemotherapy tablets daily but for many this means constant fatigue, nausea, muscle and joint pain among other symptoms. For me this means being retired from the police, unable to exercise, and no longer feeling that I can be the mother that I expected to be. I have had to readjust my life expectations.
I have a wonderful, supportive husband and an excellent GP who makes me feel valued and keeps me feeling positive when things get difficult. My boys are fantastic and keep the house running, I have great support from many villagers who bring meals and cakes for the family, and I have had unstinting support from 3 or 4 especially close friends.
Shortly after being diagnosed, I won a pair of tickets through Leukaemia CARE to see Elton John in concert, with a champagne reception and delicious meal. This was a great treat at such a difficult time, and was my first experience of how supportive Leukaemia CARE would be.
The past few months have been particularly difficult with my self-esteem at an all-time low. I needed to find a way in which I could make a difference, but that also gave me a bit of excitement within my physical limitations.
Doing this Skydive is an opportunity for the boys to see mum being herself before her illness; adventurous, not stuck to the sofa!
My brother David (86-93G) is married to a New Zealander, Helen and have Nicholas (9), Daniel (7) and Hannah (2) and live in Herefordshire. He is a partner in a civil engineering firm.
I have been fortunate to remain very good friends with Clare Shooter (nee Hawkins 84-91C) who is a GP in Birmingham. She has married Andy, and has Daniel (nearly two). She is god-parent to Robert and David. Her brother Andy, (86-93C) is married to Cheryl and they have two boys, Samuel & Matthew.
My cousin Catherine Cutler (nee Elworthy 85-92) is married to Mike and both enjoy working at the Eden Project and have Joel. Her brother, Jon Elworthy, (86-93) is married to Kate and both work in their family business in Devon. They have two girls, Francesca & Ruby.