A senior technician at the University is hoping that her online diary charting her battle with cancer will give hope and inspiration to others fighting the disease.
Anna Jenkins, 41, who works in the Fashion Department within the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, has been at Kingston for 18 years. In November 2004, she had an operation at the Royal Marsden Hospital, London, to remove a three-kilo fibrosarcoma tumour from her abdomen and chest. The operation also involved the removal of her left kidney and spleen.
Anna, who lives in Fleet, Hampshire, has recently returned to work at the University having been given the welcome all-clear that she is free of cancer. During her recovery period, she became one of the Marsden’s online diarists, sharing her day-to-day experiences as she fought her way back to fitness. The diaries were created as part of the Royal Marsden’s cancer campaign, launched to raise £30 million for the hospital which specialises in cancer treatment.
Anna said that talking to people with cancer had really helped her to deal with her condition. “I hope that by sharing my experiences in my diary I will be able to encourage and motivate people who are going through similar experiences themselves,” she said. “I am the sort of person who likes to be open about difficulties so I think my diary is a very honest account about what has happened to me. I have been told that people are enjoying reading it and I was really pleased to hear that there is a girl in Aberdeen who is regularly logging on and finding my diary a comfort.”
Anna, who has been supported during her treatment by husband Kevin, writes regular updates about her experiences, both serious and more light-hearted. In her latest diary she ponders whether chemotherapy has had a bad effect on her teeth, writing: “They seem to have gone brown round the edges. I wonder if other chemo patients have noticed the same, or whether it’s just all the coffee I’ve been drinking?”
Fiona Whitehead, a senior technician at the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, has worked with Anna for the past 14 years and said she is delighted to see her return to the University. “We felt quite lost without her last year, although we were keeping in close contact. In fact, when she was at home I would often call her about my own worries. She has a wonderful sense of humour and the students always get on really well with her.”
Anna has become a committed fundraiser for the Royal Marsden Hospital as she wants to repay the staff for all the care and support she received. She recently raised more than £7,000 for the hospital’s cancer campaign after organising a holistic party – where 22 therapists offered a variety of relaxing treatments including manicures and crystal healing – and an auction of promises, which saw people bidding for a range of goodies including a limousine ride and a brewery tour. “Being able to give something back is really important to me,” she said.
Anna also plans to continue writing her diaries, saying that it has been a therapeutic process for her. “It gave me a real focus during difficult times. I do not have a big family and what I do have is scattered around the world, so it is comforting for them to be able to log on and see what has been happening to me.”
Harri Ap Rees, the University’s Head of Resources, Planning and Management at the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, said Anna had displayed incredible courage. “Her determination to raise funds to help other people suffering from cancer is awe-inspiring,” he added.
To read Anna’s diary entries and find out more about the cancer campaign, visit www.royalmarsden.org.