Two-time cancer survivor Sue Cressman who was also nearly paralysed after breaking her neck, appreciates more than most the vital service her local hospitals provide.
The 63-year-old, who underwent a mastectomy ten years ago, has been continuing to give back by donating £250k worth of life-saving medical equipment to local hospitals.
At just 32 years old, Sue found a lump in her breast but, following an examination, she was reassured and sent home without any further tests, only to, months later, collapse in pain while at a public speaking event in America.
Sue’s treatment included ten months in a hospice while undergoing gruelling chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.
She said: “I have no idea where all the strength came from to deal with all of this. I just thought I’m going to have to bloody well fight. I always say I had an annus horribilis exactly the same year as our late Queen! While I was watching Windsor burn I was having chemo!”
A few years after her long road back to recovery, in 1999, Sue woke one morning shocked to discover she couldn’t feel her hands or legs.
“It turned out I had broken my neck – a hairline fracture from birth I didn’t even know I’d got. I drove myself to the doctors which, they told me afterwards, could have killed me,” she recalls.
“Apparently I only had a tiny amount of spinal cord left and needed an urgent bone graft in my neck. I was left semi-paralysed for about 48 hours and had to pretty much learn to walk again.”
Some 21 years after believing she’d beaten the disease, Sue later learned her cancer had returned and, in 2013, she was forced to make the agonising decision to have her breast removed. It also resulted in 16 corrective surgeries due to complications due to her earlier radiotherapy.
“I didn’t want to have the mastectomy but once it was done and I was sitting up in ICU I was relieved thinking, at least it’s finished. I wasn’t living under the threat of breast cancer anymore,” she said.
This life’s chapter also inspired Sue, in 2018, to record her own charity single, Survive, written by her husband of 15 years Rick and their friend Guy Barnes. It was later adopted by top arranger and producer Ian Wherry who has worked with such musical greats as Elaine Paige, David Essex and David Cassidy.
“As my song says, it’s a journey and the know the road will be long but you’ve got to keep on going,” she said.
“That is my strapline. You’ve got to have hope and you’ve got to have strength. And if you allow yourself to be taken in by this terrible weight of distress then that road is going to be so much harder.”
Between helping Rick run their 17th-century Nailcote Hall country house and hotel in Coventry, the former Midlands Business Woman in the Year from Dorridge dedicates as much of her time as possible to fundraising. To date, she is estimated to have donated around £250k worth equipment to hospitals in and around the West Midlands, including biopsy machines, Hilotherapy machines that reduce pain after surgery, infuser kits and garden furniture for chemotherapy units.
Sue said: “My fundraising is a debt of gratitude to the wonderful doctors and nurses and I really felt I wanted to raise money for the comfort of other breast cancer patients by giving them the help and equipment they need immediately.
“I go to see a consultant in breast cancer units and ask them what they need. Small things can make all the difference – and event guests get to see exactly where the money goes.”
One of Sue’s proudest moments was, in May 2018, when, following a successful vocal audition, she was asked to join the Gosp-Ability choir, performing live from Windsor on The One Show prior to the Royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.