Huntingdon: Breast cancer survivor, 59, launches HOPE course

A GRANDMOTHER who has survived two bouts of breast cancer and is now wheelchair-bound because of a neurological condition is launching a course to help other cancer survivors.

Judith Margolis, 59, was a married mother of one with a full-time job as head of strategy and marketing for the Open University when she was diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years ago.

She had one breast removed and then, 10 years later, doctors discovered a different form of cancer in her remaining breast. Two years after undergoing another mastectomy Mrs Margolis, of Great North Road, Eaton Socon, was diagnosed with ataxia, a neurological condition which affects her balance, speech and mobility.

No direct link has been established between the ataxia and cancer, and it is unclear if Mrs Margolis suffers from a hereditary form of the condition.

But the grandmother-of-one was helped through her ordeal by undertaking a Macmillan Cancer Support New Perspectives course for people undergoing cancer treatment.

From next month Mrs Margolis will be leading a new seven-week course designed for people finishing their treatment or on the verge of completing it.

She said: “When you have cancer, what happens is you shelter your family. You do not want to tell them how dreadful you are feeling.

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“With this course, it will be the first time people can talk about how they feel on their journey. We want to turn their thoughts to positive things and help them climb out of their dark hole.”

Mrs Margolis, who works as a volunteer publicity officer for St Mary’s Church in Huntingdon and is a volunteer for the Papworth Trust, says it has taken her years to accept her condition.

She can no longer walk long distances and relies on an electric wheelchair to get around, as well as her support dog Alfie. But she is keen for others to know it is possible to get through cancer.

“I spent a year or so looking around for a part-time job, and then I thought ‘Why am I doing this?’ Why don’t I do something I like doing? I was looking for something that married my teaching experience and my personal experience of being ill. And this opportunity came up.”

The course, entitled HOPE (Help to Overcome Problems Effectively), is a health and lifestyle coaching programme developed in conjunction with Coventry University.

It aims to help participants to take control of the stress and emotional difficulties of getting back to a meaningful life again.

Mrs Margolis, who also has a 10-year-old grandson, Ben, said: “What I learnt on the New Perspectives course was that everybody feels the same way.

“You learn it is not your responsibility to make people feel good about your condition. You have enough to deal with in your own feelings.”

INFORMATION: The HOPE course starts on Tuesday, November 1, at Hinchingbrooke Hospital. To find out more e-mail