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Having a ball in aid of good cause

Nailcote Hall Pink Ball

A Pink Ball at Nailcote Hall Hotel Golf & Country Club has raised more than £15k for state-of-the-art cancer treatment at local hospitals.

It marks the 18th year of the popular event, organised by the hotel’s co-owner and two-times cancer survivor Sue Cressman, from Dorridge. The 63-year-old, who underwent a mastectomy ten years ago, has been continuing to give back by donating a total £250k worth of life-saving medical equipment so far to local hospitals.

Nailcote Hall Pink Ball
Sue Cressman presents a cheque for one of the localizer probes to Charlotte Schofield, Director of Fundraising at UHB Charity. Photos by Peter Blanchflower

Proceeds from ticket sales, auction and raffle on the night, which was attended by 170 guests, has funded three localizer probes. This new technology leads to more accurate surgery with less damage to healthy tissue and a reduction in the need for radiation and will be used by Solihull, Heartlands and Queen Elizabeth Hospitals.

Nailcote Hall Pink Ball
Sharon Gray, Martin Reeves, Darren Gray, Hayley Reeves, Ray Darby, Steve Gammon, Jenny Harrison and James Harrison

Sue said: “We were delighted to be able to present a cheque on the night for one machine, which was a complete surprise to our guest from the UHB Charity – and went on to raise enough for a further two so I’m incredibly proud!”

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. Just months later she collapsed in pain while at a public speaking event in America.

Nailcote Hall, Pink Ball
Sandra Nutt,Rick Cressman, Sue Cressman and Chris Nutt

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!

Nailcote Hall Pink Ball
Rebecca Yazdianpour, Michelle Bunn, Natasha Roberts, Katie Clarence, Maria Morgan, Katy Thomson, Debbie Have

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.

Nailcote Hall Pink Ball
Margaret Brent, Terena Moore, Stuart Moore, Gary Reeves, Sheila Reeves, David Brent, Phil Sykes and Claire Sykes

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 you 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.”

Nailcote Hall Pink Ball
Michael Watson who played Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys in the West End

Between helping Rick run their 17th-century Nailcote Hall country house and hotel in Coventry, the former Midlands Businesswoman of the Year, 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.

Nailcote Hall Pink Ball
Sue Cressman with Lisa Devine of Therapy & Fitness Centre in Leamington

“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.