Since being diagnosed with a rare form of malignant melanoma, Val Bugden-Cawsey has been focusing her energy on helping others who may find themselves in the same position in the future.
Six years ago, Val had a lump removed from her right shoulder, which turned out to be malignant melanoma. After further surgery at the time and five years attending the hospital regularly, Val went into remission in June 2017.
However, having not felt well for some time, Val discovered another lump in her left groin in December. The lump was removed but following a CT scan and histology results, Val, her husband Terry and their family and friends, have been coming to terms with the news that she has advanced malignant melanoma for which, sadly, there is no cure.
Val was offered Pembrolizumab, a trial drug but she made the decision to decline the treatment as it offers no cure and a 20% chance of a longer time, but with chronic side effects.
"I think it’s best to be out there. I want to turn that frown upside down and do something positive", said Val.
"The research that they are doing at Derriford Hospital will benefit local people, and that’s important to me."
Instead, she wants to use the time she has to raise the profile of this form of cancer and money for further research.
She also felt the cost of the treatment would be better used for someone with a positive prognosis. “I can raise far more than I would like spent,” she added.
“I’m very, very keen that I’m not a patient, I’m still the Val that people know and love. I’m trying to raise the profile of this actually quite rare cancer. When you say melanoma, people think it’s a mole on your skin, but melanoma really is quite rare and aggressive.
Val said: “Whilst it is absolutely certain that me for, there is no going back from this, I want to do everything in my power to raise funds in the hope that in the future, others will be in a better position to face this cancer and win.”
Val visited Derriford Hospital recently to present a cheque for £5,200 from a recent fundraising event, ‘Val Walks Tall in the Face of Malignant Melanoma’. People were invited to walk the 3 mile route around Launceston, followed by a cream tea at the Town Hall. Hundreds turned out for the event, each donating £5 or more.
As a Launceston Town Councillor and professional public speaker, Val’s story has had a huge impact on her local community. After being interviewed on BBC spotlight recently, she has touched the hearts of thousands more.
Presenting her cheque to Oncology Consultant, Dr Martin Highley, Val was joined by friends and family to celebrate her fundraising success.
“Val is an outstanding Town Councillor, she’s an inspiration and she’s a really good friend. And her energy; I know not where she gets it”, said Margaret Young, Mayor of Launceston and close friend of Val.
“The fundraising event ‘Walk Tall with Val’ on 1st July was a fantastic town effort, hundreds turned out. I made 600 scones and we sold 450 cream teas. All of the ingredients were donated by the community. The Rotary Club and all other organisations have been fantastic.”
Addressing Val, Dr Highely said: “You’re a remarkable lady, you’re pretty fantastic and we really appreciate everything you’re doing.”
Ruth Devlin, Skin Cancer Nurse Specialist added: “I have known Val for many years and she never fails to impress by always thinking of other people.
“We are overwhelmed with the response to her fundraising and we will ensure that the money raised by Val will fund melanoma research here in Plymouth”.
Val’s vibrant character and inspiring story has had such an impact, that following the success of her fundraising campaign, Plymouth Hospital’s Charity are setting up a dedicated fund called ‘Val’s Malignant Melanoma Research Fund’.
Plymouth Hospitals Charity Development Manager, Corinne Bailey, said: “I think the fund should be called The Vivacious Val Fund because this amazing lady’s attitude to making a difference is irrepressible.
“We have received donations from all over the South West from Women Institutes, other civic groups and individuals. Val is not only fundraising for a research project here at Derriford Hospital, but one of the other outcomes of her fundraising campaign is more people are hearing about the risks of skin cancer.
Val has said that if this campaign helps just one person avoid what she’s gone through that will be brilliant. I think the impact of this campaign will help many more.”
To find out more about how you can fundraise or make a donation to University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, please visit https://www.plymouthhospitals.nhs.uk/fundraising