Early on Wednesday morning, the 31st of August 2011, I had a phone call from Lee Mitchell. Lee is the loving and very supportive husband of Hayley. His news was devastating. Hayley had died less than two hours before. Sarah and I had seen Hayley four weeks earlier and she was poorly but high spirited and looking forward to new treatments for her on-going battle against breast cancer.
Sarah and I had become good friends with Hayley and Lee via social media and a joint hatred of the disease. Sarah is a survivor and had been through the treatments, me a supporter of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, a leading charity fighting to see a world free of the fear of breast cancer I am someone who shouts a lot about it, runs a bit and organises the odd event to raise funds.
For two years Hayley had bravely fought the disease, giving me and Sarah some moments that we will never forget. One was during dinner at their house last year. Hayley was sat there, no hair, Sarah with her's just growing back. Hayley had a hot flush boosted somewhat by the chemo. She got up rinsed a flannel under cold water and unceremoniously plonked it on her bald head then sat down with the new flat hat dribbling water on her face and carried on as if nothing had happened. Another I would like to mention was last October. I had arranged a 70s concert at the Chatham Central Theatre to raise money for Breakthrough. My band MUD2 (I used to work with the great Les Gray) The Rubettes featuring Alan Williams and the rather brilliant Too Rex. Original MUD guitarist Rob Davis turned up unannounced to me and as a surprise to everyone in the crowd, let alone Sarah who almost wet herself when he walked out! Hayley was in a wheelchair at this time and really unable to stand much, let alone walk. It came to the end of our set and as we kicked off Tigerfeet she pulled herself out of her chair and danced with Sarah at the front row. I can remember her broad smiling face as she defied any pain, any suffering or any hardship to have a good time even if only for a four minute song. Every time we play the song now at home or overseas I will remember Hayley's face and enjoyment as she laughed in the face of the disease that would eventually take her young life.
Hayley Mitchell made an impression on my life. The way I view things, the way I will continue to do what I can to fight breast cancer. I have the uppermost respect for Lee. He showed strength, understanding and an amazing bond with Hayley, his wife of only a couple of years. They talked as if she had a bit of a cold, never complaining or blaming, just getting on with it!
Friday September the 9th Hayley made her final mile on this planet. I was there to support and comfort Lee as much as I could. I know Sarah found it hard. No age is a good age to be taken by cancer but 27 is no age at all.
The chapel at Kettering Crematorium was packed. People stood in the aisle and many were left outside. I had the opportunity to say a few words and was so proud to do so.
What ever your thoughts, religion, or faith Hayley is in no further pain. This very brave young lady whom I only knew for less than three years, made such an impact on my life and that of many other people. Then I think, this was one funeral in 12,000 this year as a direct link to breast cancer. 12,000 packed chapels, 12,000 families, countless thousand broken hearts.
Please be breast aware, please check, please look at all of the various websites dealing with breast cancer before you or a loved one is diagnosed. ANY doubts see your GP and do not be afraid to seek a second opinion from your local breast clinic or other GP.
47,000 women and 300 men will be diagnosed in the next twelve months. Treatments are improving but by far the best weapon is early detection.
As for me, I promise, in Hayley's name, to keep fighting this terrible disease in any way I can.