Woman takes on fundraising walk to remember partner who died of aggressive cancer

Emma (right) will be raising funds for Macmillan, who supported the couple in the form of a Palliative Care Nurse. Credit: Macmillan Cancer Support

A woman from Newcastle is taking on a half-marathon walking challenge to remember her partner who died from an aggressive form of breast cancer.

Emma Brown, who lives in Kenton, will join the Northumberland Mighty Hike in memory of Heather Sutherland, who died in March of triple negative breast cancer at the age of 43.

Triple negative breast cancer is resistant to hormonal, targeted chemotherapy because the cells do not have receptors to attach, meaning it is unresponsive to treatment.

Emma says her partner's positive outlook inspired her to take on the challenge. She said: "I always think: what would Heather do? We even talked about what I was going to do after she died.

"I was despondent, but I think she thought a good way for me to deal with her absence was to throw myself into something like fundraising and to take on a challenge, so the Northumberland Mighty Hike 2023 has been perfect for that.

“I will always be grateful for the extra time Heather and I had; because of her consultant at the QE Hospital asking the drug company to supply more of the experimental cancer drug on compassionate grounds."

Emma (right) is taking on the challenge in memory of her partner Heather (left). Credit: Macmillan Cancer Support

After noticing a small lump in her arm, Heather was referred for a hospital appointment as a precaution, including a mammogram, biopsy and ultrasound.

She found out that she had cancer and that it had spread to her lymph nodes. Further scans revealed the cancer had already spread to her spine. Heather began chemotherapy on New Year's Eve 2020 but passed away earlier this year.

Along with her cousin Terri Howell, Emma will be raising funds for Macmillan, who supported the couple in the form of a Palliative Care Nurse.

Emma said: “Once we knew the cancer had spread there were some difficult conversations that needed to happen and having Lynn on hand to offer advice and support was invaluable.

“I found it hard at first to talk to Lynn about how I was feeling as I didn’t want to overstep with her relationship with Heather. I knew Heather appreciated the emotional and practical support Lynn was giving.

“But eventually I did talk to Lynn about how I was feeling and in addition both Heather and I knew we could call on Lynn at very short notice to come to the house. This helped massively, we never felt too isolated. And for that I will always be grateful to Macmillan.”

Emma will be joining the Northumberland Mighty Hike to raise funds for Macmillan. Credit: Macmillan Cancer Research

A Macmillan Fundraising Manager in the North East, Sarah Goldie, said: “We send our heartfelt condolences to Emma, Terri and all the family and friends of Heather; we are honoured they have chosen to take part in the Macmillan Northumberland Mighty Hike 2023 to support our charity.

“At this time of cost-of-living crisis the services of support both physical, emotional and financial that we offer all those effected by cancer have never been needed more. We are so grateful to all those who take on the challenge and raise vital funds to help ensure more people with cancer get the care and support they need, when they need it most.”

The pair will take on the challenge on Sunday 16 July and have already raised almost double their £500 fundraising target.

Dr Hassan Tahir, Macmillan Clinical Advisor for the North East region is taking on the full marathon distance on Saturday 15 July.

He said: "I am really looking forward to this challenge at the Northumberland Mighty Hike. Cancer symptom pick up can be improved by better understanding of red flag symptoms, improved access to healthcare and onward cancer referrals. People are generally living longer but not with good health and ethnic minority groups in particular experience poorer access to healthcare and are less likely to take up additional support for cancer.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...