How cancer changed my life

In a really positive way

In 2015 Beverly Crowder, senior biomedical scientist from Ipswich Hospital’s Histology in Pathology team, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She said, “When I knew my initial biopsy had arrived into the department, reality hit and it was an unpleasant, indescribable feeling. I work in a department that diagnoses cancer every day. Suddenly I was thrust over to the other side and became a patient myself. It was quite overwhelming and I felt like I was in a complete daze for at least two months.”

Working in Pathology, Beverly would routinely handle tissue samples so understandably found it quite unnerving to know her own was in the department. She explained “What many people don’t realise is how vital and in-depth our role is in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.”

When samples are received, the technical staff are responsible for many important preparatory steps before the pathologist can view the specimen down a microscope. This includes tissue fixation and transferring to special cassettes. Next, the tissue goes through a special dehydration process before it is embedded in a block of paraffin wax. Once set, microscopic sections are expertly cut, flattened in a warm water bath and the tissue ribbons are set onto slides. For breast biopsies, the final stage is ImmunoHistoChemistry (IHC). IHC is a special staining process to show whether or not the cancer cells have certain receptors on their surface and plays a critical role in treatment planning. Only then will a pathologist be able to analyse the specimen and make their diagnosis.

Beverly continued, “Since the moment I found out, I cannot praise my work colleagues and the clinical teams enough. On New Year’s Eve Miss Mortimer, consultant surgeon, operated and successfully removed the tumour. She is an exceptional woman and I would trust her with my life any day.

“The Oncology department are very professional and made me feel very looked after. The radiotherapy department and lymphedema physios are wonderful and there was a real sense of family between staff and patients.

“The care I received from the breast team was also outstanding. They are very personable people who focus only on you, the patient. My own team were just as supportive and helped in any way they could. I feel blessed that I had this level of support, but I can’t deny it was still quite surreal being a member of hospital staff and a cancer patient at the same time.”

Before her cancer journey, Beverly described herself as ‘an anxious yet positive person’. To relieve worry she found alternative treatments like massage and Reiki really helpful.

She said “Anxiety can easily take over your life. I don’t want anyone to feel how I did which is why I have now trained as a level 2 Reiki practitioner since finishing my cancer treatment. I am also now qualified in various other massage techniques and have a dedicated treatment room at home. Cancer has completely changed my life and I just want to relax people and reduce their stress and anxiety.”

Beverly has also found the time to fundraise for The Blossom Appeal at Ipswich Hospital by making and selling hand-crafted cards to customers across the UK. She also donates all her tips from her Reiki and massage treatments. Colchester & Ipswich Hospitals Charity launched The Blossom Appeal in 2017 to build a new breast care centre. The centre will bring all breast services together in one place for the first time.

Beverly continues “The staff desperately need a fit for purpose breast care centre. They already do an extraordinary job, but once it’s built they will have the facilities to deliver an exceptional service. In January I will be having my penultimate annual mammogram. Wouldn’t it be amazing if by 2021, when my five year journey ends, building work would have started!”