'Breast friends' from Asda Thornaby dance and celebrate life to support Tickled Pink
Everyone at our Thornaby store loves the four "breast friends" – Lynn Hodgson, Pauline Cox, Julie Kemp and Helen Middleton – who are putting their heart and soul into supporting Tickled Pink.
The four colleagues call themselves the "breast friends" after supporting one another through a breast cancer diagnosis and are passionate about raising money and awareness for our campaign, which is 25 this year and supports Breast Cancer Now and CoppaFeel!.
The store's community champion Kayleigh Mitchell said: "They're such amazing women and an incredible inspiration to everyone they meet. They've been celebrating life in store; dancing, baking and distributing leaflets informing you how to check yourself correctly. We're holding our biggest fundraising month to celebrate their recoveries and to continue raising awareness and they really are the driving force behind everything we do to support Tickled Pink."
Along with normally-chatty porter Michael Dryden, who held a sponsored silence, the four friends have already raised £2,660 for our campaign this autumn, which supports Breast Cancer Now and CoppaFeel!.
One of the four friends' fundraising events was a sponsored danceathon at the front of the store.
Julie, who's 57, said: "I just do mam dancing or nanna dancing now – I just have a few moves. It's just something a bit different to capture people's attention and to make them smile."
She's had breast cancer twice, after first being diagnosed in 2014 – and says Tickled Pink's message of raising awareness of the importance of regularly checking yourself is so important.
"I have always felt that you should check yourself, and I'm so glad that I did as I found my lump myself." said Julie. "I went straight to the doctor's and was told it was fairly treatable because of me catching it early.
"Unfortunately I had a recurrence at the end of 2017 and had a full mastectomy, chemotherapy and everything that goes with it. That's why I want to spread the word about awareness, because if I hadn't found the lump when I did I could have had a very different outcome."
Julie, who works on checkouts and has been at the store for 16 years, says everyone at the store gets behind the campaign each year – here they are coming to work in their ugliest shirts:
She said: "When Tickled Pink comes round it's a chance to bring the awareness up as well as the fundraising, because we can put a positive side on what's a very difficult time for anyone affected."
Julie's been married to Neil for 37 years and they have a son, Martin, and three grandchildren. She says their support, along with her friends at Asda, was a huge help.
"I really appreciated all the support from my friends and colleagues at Asda," said Julie. "I live near the store and when I was able to get out for a walk I popped in quite often and it was lovely when everyone was asking how I was. I got cards, visits and messages of support from all my colleagues and friends and it meant so much.
"Me and Pauline in particular have been good friends throughout, as we were diagnosed at around the same time.
"It's very close to my heart because I am working in Asda and my colleagues were there for me when I needed them and saw the thing I was dealing with and supported me. It's nice that I can now re-pay that by helping others."
Pauline, who's 76, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 after requesting a mammogram – which wasn't offered to her as a matter of course because of her age.
She said: "I didn't have a lump and wouldn't have felt it, as it was within the milk glands, so I'm so glad I requested the mammogram.
"The care I received was amazing. I had surgery within weeks, they removed the milk glands and the cancerous cells. I had 15 rounds of radiotherapy and now I just have regular checks."
She's worked at the store for 18 years and said: "If I see anything going on for Tickled Pink I like to join in. Cancer touches everyone – we all know someone who's had it. I have a sister and cousin who've had breast cancer, so I think it's so important to support it."
Pauline's delighted to be teaming up with Julie for her charity danceathon.
She said: "I've got a retro record player and lots of LPs which I will sell for Tickled Pink while Julie's dancing. There's lots of 60s music, including a box set of Cliff Richard records.
"Tickled Pink does seem personal to me in a way, but I consider myself one of the lucky ones because of the type of cancer I had. I just want to support people and help the cause whenever there's something going on."
Helen returned to work in the store's home shopping team in April after her breast cancer treatment. She said: "I love that job! It's so varied and I have got so many friends there, and that's why Tickled Pink is so important to us.
"What I'm trying to get across to people is that even if nobody wants to hear those terrible words from their doctor you can get through it. The quicker you get a diagnosis the quicker the progress you can make and the better the prognosis."
Helen's been raising money for our charity partners by baking cakes for colleagues.
She said: "I am so proud of Tickled Pink. It's always great to see when the merchandise goes out in store how interested so many people are in it.
"The support we have had is amazing, so being able to give something back is what it's all about."
Helen says Lynn was a huge support to her throughout her treatment and recovery. Read more here.