Breast cancer survivor’s inspiring efforts to support NHS and share message of hope for Covid-19 patients

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After surviving breast cancer twice, and spending years fundraising to help others, Sue Cressman has now diverted her attention to spreading positivity and supporting frontline NHS staff in the Covid-19 epidemic.

Sue’s Story

Sixty-year-old Sue’s positive attitude and fighting spirit have always kept her going through her long battle with breast cancer – and she wants to share that with others.

According to Cancer Research, more than 55,000 people – the majority women – are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

Sue and her husband, Rick Cressman, now run Nailcote Hall Hotel in Warwickshire. Originally from Wolverhampton, Sue was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993.

Sue and Rick have been married for thirteen years. Credit Sue & Rick Cressman

After beating the disease, Sue began her fundraising journey by supporting Breast Cancer Care, to help others facing breast cancer.

Sue originally met her now-husband, Rick, at a breast cancer fundraising event in 2003. By 2005, her and Rick began running fundraising balls, known as ‘Pink Balls’ at Nailcote Hall – they have continued to host the balls twice a year ever since.

In 2013, Sue’s breast cancer returned – this time, it was more severe, and would result in a double mastectomy and reconstruction, consisting of 16 surgeries over the following two years.

While the survival rate is improving, Cancer Research UK’s figures show breast cancer claims the lives of more than 11,000 women each year.

Sue and Rick’s fundraising ‘Pink Balls’ have attracted some celebrity guests in the past – from Coronation Street actor Bill Roache to shirtmaker John Tungatt. Credit Rick Cressman

However, Sue’s positive attitude never faltered: “Throughout both bouts of breast cancer, my mindset was that you either sink or swim – I definitely wasn’t going to let it sink me.”

“I knew I had to kick it up the a*se!” she added.

“She took it all in her stride,” Rick recalled. ” I remember her attitude being: ‘it didn’t get me the first time, it’s not getting me now!’”

Sue went on to beat the cancer again, renewing her enthusiasm for fundraising. This time, she took a different approach – she wanted to know she was making a difference locally.

“I began to visit local hospitals and asking them directly, ‘what do you need? What can I buy you that will make a difference?’”

Sue Cressman

Continuing fundraising through Pink Balls, she has since provided a range of equipment to many Midlands hospitals.

Donations have ranged from walking poles to aid mobility of women recovering from surgery, to high-tech machines such as pain infusers, which allow women to wake from surgery pain-free.

Sue presenting a donation of a nipple tattoo machine to a breast cancer unit at Solihull Hospital. Credit http://www.suecressman.com
Sue donating a high-tech ‘Hilotherapy’ machine which helps speed up recovery, to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. Credit http://www.suecressman.com

Her most recent donation, shortly before the lockdown, was equipment for a breast screening unit at University Hospital Coventry.

Jo O’Sullivan, head of University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) charity, said Sue’s contributions have been vastly appreciated.

“Sue is very committed to making things better for people,” Jo commented.

The birth of ‘Survive’

Last year, Sue and Rick had the opportunity to create a song, titled ‘Survive’, based on Sue’s experiences facing breast cancer.

Featuring lines such as, ‘hold on to your courage, let’s keep this hope alive,’ Rick wrote the lyrics based on Sue’s positivity and determination, to inspire others to keep going and not give up. 

“Sue has this incredible positive attitude – that spirit is delivered through ‘Survive’.”

Rick Cressman

“We wanted to create a song of complete positivity,” Sue added. “It spreads the message that you’ve got to hold onto your hope.”

Support in the Covid-19 crisis

Despite their hotel shutting due to social distancing regulations, Sue and Rick’s efforts haven’t slowed.

They have delivered hundreds of boxes of on-the-go snacks for frontline NHS staff at University Hospital Coventry, who are working long shifts in the battle against Covid-19.

“It has made a huge difference,” Jo O’Sullivan said. “It shows people are thinking of NHS staff, and appreciate the work they’re doing.”

Jo and her team collecting just a few of the hundreds of boxes of snacks Sue and Rick donated to support staff at University Coventry Hospital. Credit Sue Cressman

Not only that – throughout the pandemic, all the profits from ‘Survive’, will go to NHS charities.

The lyrics, originally aimed at those facing breast cancer, are becoming increasingly relevant for people battling Covid-19 too.

“It was born out of fighting a life-threatening illness, just like what so many people are facing right now,” Rick said. “We hope that a lot of people will feel that inspiration.”

“If the song can give one person the courage and hope to survive, I’ll be happy.”

Sue Cressman

‘Survive’ is now available to listen on Spotify and Amazon Music, and also can be purchased on iTunes by clicking HERE.

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