This World Cancer Day, The Christie is marking a trio of women in the Wood family, whose entire lives were shaped when a child’s mum was treated at the specialist cancer hospital.
Tracey Wood, aged 54, was inspired to become a nurse after her own mum was treated for breast cancer. Sadly, her mum Jean Openshaw died when Tracey was just a teenager, but seeing the care and treatment she received whilst being treated, spurred Tracey into the caring profession and ultimately spending much of her nursing career at the very same hospital that cared for her mum.
The members of the Wood family pictured here are part of the same COVID-19 support bubble. Before and after this photo was taken, all members of the family adhered to the relevant infection prevention and control measures in place at The Christie.
Tracey, from Reddish, first started at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in 1986 after completing her nurse training. She said: “There was no question in my mind where to work when I decided to be a nurse. It simply had to be The Christie.
“It was very difficult as a child seeing my mum being treated for cancer, but the care and compassion she received was just amazing. It made a huge impression on me as a child, and it went on to shape my whole life. The Christie inspired me to become a nurse and to make sure that I could help others in the same way The Christie helped my mum.
“We lived a little distance from The Christie and my dad was not confident to undertake the journey on the motorway each day. Transport via the NHS was definitely not an option like it is today. The Christie had a ‘hostel’ type accommodation within the grounds for ambulatory patients staying for treatment and we would occasionally visit mum at the hostel which was called Palatine House. During these visits we would be given a lot of attention from the patients my mum had befriended and the wonderful caring nurses. My sister and I loved the fuss we were showered with as young girls.”
Tracey took a career break from nursing for a number of years whilst she saw the world as an air stewardess, but the drive to nurse never left her and Tracey decided to return to her beloved profession in 2000. She rejoined after a return to nursing course, and shortly after was appointed as a ward manager at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, before returning to The Christie in 2010.
Since then, Tracey has undertaken a number of roles, including the manager of the unit where day case surgery is carried out, a senior sister on the integrated procedures unit, and currently, a night manager ensuring that continuity of care is provided to Christie patients throughout the hospital 24/7.
Tracey added: “After pausing my nursing career to see the world, I always said I would return one day with life experience behind me…..and so I did!!!! You could say The Christie and caring for cancer patients is in my blood and I sincerely hope to stay here now until retirement.”
And Tracey’s commitment to The Christie stretches beyond herself. Her two daughters, Amanda and Grace, also both work at The Christie.
Eldest daughter Amanda, 27, who lives nearby her mum in Reddish, trained in radiotherapy physics and is now a clinical technologist at The Christie. And her youngest daughter Grace who lives at home, works bank as a healthcare assistant, whilst she trains to become a physiotherapist at The University of Manchester.
Tracey added: “It is definitely in our blood. I’m so grateful to The Christie, as over the years they have supported me in so many ways. The Christie has been very good to me and my family, and in turn, we’re all very proud to be part of The Christie family because that’s how it feels – like I work with family.”
Amanda said: “I started working at the Christie in 2012 as a volunteer on the Surgical Day Case Unit. Since then I managed to get a job working in radiotherapy treatment planning as an administrator. I worked in this role for four years and then progressed onto brachytherapy working in a clinical role in brachytherapy theatres. I was approached by my manager who offered me the chance to do an apprenticeship degree in radiotherapy physics. This course lasted three years and in June 2020 I officially qualified as a clinical technologist working in brachytherapy physics. Seeing my mum work successfully at The Christie gave me inspiration and encouragement to follow in her success. She is well respected within many departments at the Trust and is admired by so many. She has always been my inspiration.”
Grace, aged 19, said: “Having both my mum and sister work within the NHS is inspirational. They are both superb role models, showing commitment and dedication within their roles, they clearly love their jobs and always look forward to their day ahead. This inspired me to want to join them working for the NHS and went along way to influencing my choice of study to be a physiotherapist – a key role in enabling people to improve their health, wellbeing and quality of life.
“Alongside university I work as a healthcare assistant at The Christie and have found it to be very rewarding and a great experience, giving me the skills and confidence that can be transferred to my degree. I am grateful to be able to work for the NHS alongside my family.”
The last 12 months have been a busy and emotional time for anyone working in the NHS, but with the COVID-19 vaccine now being given to NHS staff and to patients in a bid to bring the pandemic to an end, there are brighter times ahead. Tracey was in fact the first member of Christie staff to be given the vaccine when the vaccination programme for staff was started in January.
She added: “It was a very emotional moment to receive the vaccine, and I felt incredibly proud to be the first person at The Christie. It has been a very difficult year for anyone working in the NHS, and more so the cancer patients who have to continue coming for treatment throughout. We have done all we can to protect our patients, and it is fantastic that me and all the wonderful team at The Christie have received our vaccinations so we can give even more reassurance and protection to the people in our care.”
World Cancer Day takes place on Thursday February 4th and is the global uniting initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). This year's theme is 'I Am and I Will'. The UICC believes that through positive actions, the number of premature deaths from cancer and noncommunicable diseases can be reduced by one third by 2030.