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Cardiff cancer survivor bites back with brunch

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Leanne Hugglestone with partner Brendon and children Thea (left) and Hudson (right)

A Cardiff mother who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 32, gave birth to a second ‘miracle baby’ this year and is set to celebrate with a special brunch this October to raise money for lifesaving cancer research.

Leanne Hugglestone, now 40, wants to ensure cancer patients are not forgotten about through the COVID-19 pandemic and is calling on people across Wales to join her and host a special Sunday Brunch fundraiser for Cancer Research UK as part of this year’s Stand Up To Cancer campaign.

With local lockdowns now in place across Wales and events cancelled she’s urging foodies and fundraisers alike to create a restaurant-style experience at home by hosting a brunch for their household – with family or housemates donating the bill to Cancer Research UK.

The corporate social responsibility consultant from Heath was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2012. She said: “When I was diagnosed with cancer, even though I was shocked because I was so young, I am really practical, and I just wanted to know what the plan was and what options I had in terms of my fertility because of my age.

“I wasn’t with anyone at the time and I was told the treatment could significantly impact my chances of having children. It made me want to be a mother even more than ever, so I made the decision to freeze my eggs.”

Leanne was successfully treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, however, a subsequent genetic test indicated that there was an 80% chance of the disease returning. She was advised to have a double mastectomy as a preventative measure, which was filmed for an ITV Wales documentary called ‘Mastectomy and Me’.

Leanne Hugglestone before her mastectomy

Now eight years cancer free she reflects: “When I agreed to take part in the TV programme, I was keen to show other women the reality of a preventative mastectomy. It, it was painful and there were side effects from an infection but over all I’m pleased I made the decision.”

In 2015, Leanne began the process of IVF. Despite not having a partner at the time she did not want to wait to meet someone and found a sperm donor in America. After three cycles of treatment, Leanne discovered that she was pregnant.

Describing the moment she found out, she said: “I was overjoyed, I couldn’t believe it.”

In October 2016 Leanne gave birth to her daughter Thea. She said: “Even though it was tough being a solo parent, I learnt so much and I was so happy to have my daughter and I have really enjoyed watching her grow up.”

Leanne Hugglestone’s partner Brendon with Thea Hugglestone, 3

Then in 2018 Leanne met her partner Brendon. She said: “He is an excellent father to Thea, and she calls him dad. She now has more grandparents and Brendon, who didn’t have any other children just took to fatherhood so naturally. He’s so great with Thea.”

In September 2019, the couple discovered they were expecting a baby together. Leanne said: “To say we were surprised when I found out I was pregnant is an understatement. This was huge. It was emotional. There was lots of crying and total disbelief.

“It was so surreal. We thought Thea was a miracle, so this was beyond our wildest dreams. There was no fertility treatment, no hormones, nothing.”

Baby Hudson with big sister Thea

Baby Hudson was born in June this year. Leanne said of the experience: “It was so lovely to be able to share the experience with Brendon, I had a planned caesarean and it was so important to me that he was there with me”.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic Brendon was only able to stay for a few hours after Hudson’s birth but Leanne said: “It just meant so much that he could enjoy the first cuddle with his son.

“Thea loves him and it’s wonderful to be a busy family of four now, he is a really good sleeper and seems really calm.”

Since her cancer diagnosis, Leanne has done a great deal to raise awareness of issues affecting cancer patients and she was part of the Stand Up to Cancer fundraising initiative when it launched in October 2012. Leanne was part of the ‘Big C Choir’ a group made up of cancer patients who performed live at the Royal Albert Hall to raise money for lifesaving cancer research.

Leanne said of the experience: “It was a huge honour to perform in the choir, I was going through treatment at the time and I didn’t have any hair but it really did help to boost my confidence and it was comforting to be with other people going through the same experience. Sadly, some of the people I sang with have now passed away from cancer. It’s heart-breaking but keeps me even more inspired to help raise awareness and money for lifesaving research.”

Leanne continues to take Tamoxifen**, a drug pioneered by Cancer Research UK-funded scientists which helps to prevent the cancer from returning. She alsohas yearly check-ups.

Stand Up To Cancer is a joint fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 which began in 2012 in the UK aims to get new cancer tests and treatments to people who need them the most.

Leanne is stepping up to the stove because she knows first-hand how important new discoveries and breakthroughs are to help more people like her survive.

Now fit and well, she will be sharing her ‘brunch-raiser’ with partner Brendon, daughter Thea, 3, and son Hudson,4 months, to celebrate eight years of being cancer-free.

She added “It’s thanks to research and treatment that I’m still here today and I can look forward to a future full of special moments with my loved ones.

“The experience of being diagnosed and treated for cancer has helped me appreciate how crucial research is, so now I’m determined to help more people survive. With charities having been hit so hard by the coronavirus outbreak, it feels more important than ever for everyone to do what they can. So, I’m putting a Sunday brunch for Stand Up To Cancer firmly on the menu.”

In Wales, around 19,200 people are diagnosed with cancer every year*. That’s why Leanne is calling on people across Wales to sign up for a free fundraising kit now with everything they need to turn their home into an exclusive brunch spot.

Supported by Channel 4 show Sunday Brunch, an array of celebrity chefs – including co-host Simon Rimmer – have donated recipes. From Davina McCall’s kedgeree, to Jamie Oliver’s super spinach pancakes and Asma Khan’s courgette sabzi – there’s something to suit everyone’s taste buds. Or participants can simply choose to conjure up their own culinary creations.

Cassandra Miles, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Wales, said: “We’re grateful to Leanne and her family for helping us to continue our mission. Cancer doesn’t stop in the face of a pandemic. It can affect anyone’s life, at any time so we only have one option: accelerate life-saving research.

“Thanks to the extra time spent at home lately, many of us now know our way around the kitchen much better than before. So why not put these new-found culinary skills to use while inspiring guests to dish up the dosh for a great cause.

“Cooking a special Sunday brunch for your household is a safe and simple way to show support during these challenging times. By taking part you’ll be rewarded with more than just empty plates. The donations your family or housemates make in support of your efforts really could save lives.”

For added inspiration, during October four special episodes of Sunday Brunch will be shown on Channel 4 showcasing some of the delicious Stand Up To Cancer recipes.

Get a free fundraising kit at su2c.org.uk/brunch. A Sunday Brunch mug is also available from Stand Up To Cancer’s online shop.

Sunday Brunch co-host and chef, Simon said: “I remember vividly the moment that I was told my dad had cancer. I was only nine years old and it hit me like a ton of bricks. He’s the strongest man I know and thankfully he’s still here with us today. Stand Up To Cancer is such an important cause, funding research to help people just like my lovely dad.

“So I’m thrilled that Sunday Brunch is teaming up with Stand Up To Cancer this year. We’re asking everyone in Wales to hold their own special brunch with their household or bubble – the more the merrier if they’re dialling in over video! I’ll definitely be facetiming my good old dad over a cuppa.

“It couldn’t be easier to sign up and download the fundraising pack from the Stand Up To Cancer website, which is full of brunch recipe ideas. I’ve suggested a brunch classic: blueberry pancakes. I look forward to seeing all of your amazing foodie pictures and hearing all about your donations on the show – enjoy!”

Simon Rimmer’s Blueberry and Cottage Cheese Pancakes

RECIPE BOX OUT:

Simon Rimmer’s Blueberry and Cottage Cheese Pancakes

Serves: 4

Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients
200g self-raising flour

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1tsp bicarb
  • 1 egg
  • 50g melted butter
  • 250ml milk
  • 125g cottage cheese
  • 225g blueberries
  • Zest 1 lemon
  • 15g unsalted butter
  • Serve with a poached egg

Method

  1. Mix the flour, bicarb and sugar together in a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl combine the egg, butter, milk, lemon and cheese, then add this to the flour mix.
  3. Stir in the blueberries.
  4. Lightly oil a frying pan and preheat over a medium heat. Spoon a small ladleful of the pancake batter into the pan and cook for one minute on each side, until golden.
  5. Meanwhile, poach an egg per person in boiling water for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Serve two pancakes per person, topped with one poached egg and a drizzle of maple syrup.
Rhys Gregory
Editor of Wales247.co.uk

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