A woman whose life has been shaped by The Christie after being treated for cancer as a child is now working at the specialist cancer centre to help other patients.

Melissa Fitzpatrick, from Gee Cross in Tameside, was treated as a child for cancer of the kidney and lungs and still has regular check-ups at The Christie many years later. She is now using her past experience within her job in the research and innovation division at the cancer centre. She hopes her role helping on the iMATCH project, which aims to improve access to Advanced Cell Therapy treatments for cancer patients, will allow her to build a career in cancer care and health policy in the future.

Melissa’s mum, Joanne, who also worked at The Christie for almost 30 years, sadly died of breast cancer herself in January following many years of treatment. Joanne was Executive Director of Finance and Business Development at the specialist cancer hospital.

Melissa and Joanne Fitzpatrick

Melissa, aged 23, recently raised £3,288 in honour of her mum for breast cancer research at The Christie by swimming 21 miles at Tameside Wellness Centre – the length of the English Channel.

She said: “The Christie is a much-loved hospital in Manchester for many reasons, and it is especially important to me because of how it has been there for me and my family throughout my lifetime. It has shaped my life and my family and is now shaping my career and I’d love to use my experiences to help other people.

“The Christie has helped both me and my mum beat cancer in the past, but unfortunately my mum’s cancer returned after seven years in remission and she passed away in January.’’

“The past year has been tough, but one thing that has shone through was my mum’s strength and determination despite her diagnosis, which motivated me to challenge myself.”

Melissa swam for 28 days consecutively, having just one day away from the pool.

She said: “I had finished university and it was before I began my first job, so I went each lunchtime and did an average of 50 lengths, sometimes more.

“Once I got into the pool it was alright, though it did get monotonous doing it day after day.”

Melissa chose swimming as she lacks stamina to do running events. She added: “Due to the effect of childhood chemotherapy and radiotherapy on my lungs, I cannot run to save my life, so this was a challenge which was achievable.”

“My mum was an inspiration, not just through how she handled her illness but with how much she achieved throughout her time working at The Christie. I miss her every day, but I take comfort in the fact that her legacy will live on, not just in the work that she did to make the hospital what it is today, but also through the money others are raising in her memory.”

Meanwhile, a group of Joanne’s colleagues in the finance department are fundraising for The Christie through a series of personal and team events this year. They have several events in the pipeline, including a Snowdon at Night challenge which a team is taking on by climbing Wales’ highest peak in the dark which will take place on what would be Joanne’s birthday this weekend.

Melissa added: “My mum used to say ‘if you cut me through, I am The Christie” and I feel the same. I am so proud of everything she achieved and what is now being achieved in her name. Her team will climb Snowdon on her birthday and I know she’ll be looking down at them smiling and wishing them well.”

Last updated: February 2023

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