In 2013, Alyson was diagnosed with breast cancer. With two young children depending on her, it was a terrifying experience, but the staff at St Bartholomew’s Hospital helped her through it.
Just three years later, her husband developed endocarditis and was rushed to the same hospital she had come to know so well.
Now she’s back on her feet, and celebrating her 50th birthday by running the London Marathon for Barts Charity.
“It was an incredibly scary time,” says Alyson.
“I was 41 years old with a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old. I had gone back to work after having my second child and was getting on with life.
"I had been having some pain in my right breast on and off for a few months and something just didn’t feel right, so I went to see my GP who decided it would be best to refer me to a breast clinic for further tests.”
“I had the choice of my nearest hospital or St Bartholomew’s Hospital and I chose St Bartholomew’s. I had been to their ‘one stop clinic’ six years before to get a benign lump removed, so I knew and trusted the clinic and their team.
"The one stop clinic is fantastic, you go there in the morning and they run various tests (examination, mammogram, needle biopsy, ultrasound) and as it’s all in one place you get your results on the same day.
"Obviously having been there before I thought it would be nothing, but I realised pretty quickly that there was something more serious going on.”
“It wasn’t a complete surprise when I was given the diagnosis, although I was obviously devastated. The surgeon and nursing staff were fantastic, very supportive and sensitive to my situation.
"They reassured me that there would be a treatment plan in place very quickly and gave me lots of leaflets and information to take away.
"I was also immediately allocated a breast care nurse who would be my point of contact for any concerns or questions.”
“The staff at St Bartholomew’s breast cancer service were amazing, despite being an incredibly busy unit, I never felt rushed and always felt listened to.
"The additional support of the physio and the wig and prosthesis lady was fantastic.
"Most importantly, I felt like I was being treated in the best possible place and had total trust in my team who explained every step of the process and were never too busy to answer any questions or concerns I had.
“My oncologist was fantastic, she got that I was a younger woman in a clinic with mainly older people, she had a great sense of humour and made difficult conversations easier.
"I also have to give special mention to my radiotherapy team whom I saw every weekday for three weeks, they went above and beyond to make me feel comfortable and looked after.”
Back to St Bartholomew’s
Three years after her cancer diagnosis, Alyson’s husband, Sanj, was admitted to the hospital after developing endocarditis – a rare condition where the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves becomes infected.
“It was a surreal experience coming back for another life-threatening situation,” Alyson recalls.
“It was much more intense this time as my husband was critically ill and was therefore in a ward rather than being treated as an outpatient over several months.”
“The care he received was world class, and every person I spoke to said that he was in the best possible place.
"Barts Heart Centre has a very good reputation.
"Knowing that he was at a hospital that I had already received first class treatment from made a very difficult time a little easier.
"It’s hard to put into word how grateful myself and my family are for all that St Bartholomew’s have done for us. We are incredibly lucky to have a world class hospital like it on our doorstep and we will be forever thankful for the care we have been given by the hospital staff and the NHS in general.”
Alyson decided to run the London Marathon for Barts Charity to give something back and to raise awareness for the work that the hospital does.
She’s already raised over a quarter of her fundraising target.