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Radiotherapy & Lara

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We asked Lara Veitch, one of the creative team from Contact about her own experience.

Lara Veitch - Public Programmes Team

Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience with radiotherapy.

I've been a part of the 'cancer world' my whole life really as technically I was born with cancer. I have a genetic predisposition to cancer called Li-Fraumeni Syndrome and have had multiple cancers since that first sarcoma as a baby. The most recent cancer was an osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in my spine, which I finished treatment for two years ago. It was for this cancer that I experienced radiotherapy for the first time. I had a type of radiotherapy called proton beam therapy, and because at that time there was not a treatment centre for it in the UK, I was flown to Florida where I went in for proton therapy five days a week for three months. It was a pretty surreal experience.

What is your experience of being involved with research?

During the treatment for that last cancer I became a member of the National Cancer Research Institute where I sit on the Teenage and Young Adult clinical studies group. I have contributed to a number of pieces of research and am currently working with a group that is developing some research around end of life in young people. My role is to make sure patients voices are heard and considered as studies are being designed and carried out.

Why is raising awareness of radiotherapy and research important?

I think that radiotherapy is a treatment that is generally poorly understood by the public, which can create a lot of fear and anxiety for those undergoing it. It isn't as straightforward to understand as chemotherapy or surgery, partly because it's not as tangible and visible, and partly because it doesn't get as much exposure in things like films or the media. Manchester opened a proton beam therapy centre in 2018 and the second UK centre is due to open in 2019, which is a huge step and will give patients new treatment options. It feels very important to me to help raise awareness and increase understanding of all types of radiotherapy.

What difference has sharing your story made or would you like it to make?

By sharing my cancer experiences with others, it feels like the most difficult and challenging parts of my life are somehow given a kind of meaning and purpose. I hope that by doing this other patients will be encouraged to do the same.

If you live in or around Oldham and have a radiotherapy story to tell we'd love to hear from you. Join us at our storytelling workshops taking place on Tuesdays throughout February from 6 - 8pm at Oldham Library, email publicprogrammes@mft.nhs.uk.or call 0161 276 6614.