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Health News

Gwyneth Paltrow brings cancer fundraising campaign to the UK

A campaign aimed at raising millions of pounds for cancer has been launched by Gwyneth Paltrow, with backing from a slew of high-profile public supporters. Taking the lead from the American Stand Up to Cancer project which, over the past four years, has pledged more than £160m for research, the Academy-award winning actress has now brought the fundraising campaign to the UK.

Olympic diver Tom Daley, singers Kylie Minogue, Leona Lewis and Emeli Sandé, Formula One racer Jenson Button, along with comedian Jimmy Carr and actress Anna Friel, will guarantee public awareness of the scheme. One in three people in Britain will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime, and Channel 4 and Cancer Research are working to boost public awareness of this statistic and its effect on people's lives. Ms Paltrow, who lost her father, Bruce, to cancer 10 years ago, said: "Whether we lose a loved one in the US or the UK, we all lose until we do something to change it. Stand Up to Cancer is a grassroots movement to raise funds for cancer research, to get new treatments to patients more quickly. It requires scientists to work together, to compete against cancer, instead of each other."

While a week-long series of events, stunts and chat shows, including a Channel 4 Embarrassing Bodies special, highlight the campaign, the hard reality of cancer survivors' stories is a stark contrast to the glamour. Here, some of those survivors tell how they refused to be broken by their fight against the disease:

When Josh David Stephenson, 48, was diagnosed with a rare eye cancer, orbital melanoma, three years ago, he was designing luxury goods for Harrods. Since then, the self-professed "vain" designer from Cambridgeshire, has lost his eye, his jaw, and his income. He has undergone more than 50 hours of surgery in a bid to rebuild his face. Now, as he launches his new charitable design company, he says he feels stronger than ever.

"You couldn't find anyone vainer than me. The fashion world can be incredibly fickle. Image is very important to me; it was one hell of a shock to not recognise myself. Brilliant surgeons took a graft from my leg and put it into my face, and then they removed half the roof of my mouth and upper jaw and used tissue from my shoulder blade to replace it. Words can't really explain what it was like; just a numbness.

"I think my character has changed a lot and I have become more determined. Since the last surgery, I've had friends say, 'We've got Josh back again." If I don't believe in something now, I stand up and say it. I'm starting life over yet again and know something new has got to happen; there has to be a positive side."

Natalie Carney, 22, from Nottingham, was studying for her science GCSEs when she found out she had cervical cancer. Within a year, she dropped out of college, underwent a hysterectomy and is now going through the menopause. After cancer spread to her lymph nodes, she and her boyfriend of four months, Adam, took the decision to freeze three embryos, in the hope they can have a child, via surrogacy, one day. She is now waiting to find out if she is cancer-free.

"When I was told I had cancer, my heart was pounding; I was in a daze. You think if you had cancer, you would feel unwell, but I didn't. I couldn't get my head around that. I had radiotherapy and chemotherapy, which killed my ovaries. That was more devastating than anything. We managed to freeze three embryos and we have a 30 per cent chance of them working. My only chance of having a child lies with them.

"Before, I didn't used to have a care in the world - suddenly I have a lot more worries. But I want to raise awareness, because you can't even have a smear test until you're 25 years old. I always wanted to be a nurse and now I know the area I want to work in - helping cancer patients. Hopefully I'll get there."

When Danny Wild, 39, from Sheffield, was diagnosed with bladder cancer, his medics had to double-check their results. Few cases occur in people under 50. But the father of two had to undergo 12 courses of treatments using the tuberculosis virus to fight his cancer, before he found out he could keep his bladder.

"When I was diagnosed, it was a complete shock. When you hear the word 'Cancer', all you think about is people dying, your whole world sort of falls apart. When my first six treatments didn't work, my doctor told me I should be taking my bladder out; it was high-grade cancer. The odds were against me.

"When I found out my treatment was successful, I was over the moon. There's a 50-50 chance of it never coming back. I was so far down the line when I got my second chance. It makes you rethink things dramatically - the time I spend with my kids, what I eat; everything. Before, my wife and I couldn't even plan my 40th birthday next year - now we can. I consider myself very lucky."