Birthday thanks for breast cancer treatment

26.10.17 Categories: Patient stories,

Image: Alison with Ivan Harbour and Lord Richard Rogers from Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the architects who designed the new Cancer Centre 

Alison Hookham was treated for breast cancer in 2009, which included five weeks of radiotherapy treatment at St Thomas’ Hospital. Alison had a special birthday and instead of presents, asked friends and family to donate to Guy’s Cancer Appeal and a local breast cancer support charity in south-east London, raising an amazing £2,000 to share between the two.

Alison's story

‘My treatment was usually in the late afternoon or early evening when it was already dark outside, and then I went down to the basement for radiotherapy. There was no mobile phone reception, no receptionist after 5pm and no facilities for making a hot drink or even getting a cup of water. It felt like one was cut off from civilization, sitting in the waiting area looking at a blank wall.'

Like all hospitals, the radiotherapy department was located in lead-lined basement rooms to prevent powerful radiation from escaping.

Once recovered, Alison joined the patient group that was brought together to help design the new Cancer Centre at Guy’s. Alison asked if the radiotherapy unit could be positioned above ground in the new building.

Initially, the project team explained that the machines that deliver radiation therapy are located in hospital basements because of their weight and because the rooms that house them need to be lined with lead. But they promised to investigate whether there was an alternative approach to this, and discovered it was possible.

Bringing radiotherapy out of the basement

The design of our Cancer Centre places radiotherapy on floors two to four, giving patients access to natural light, which will help reduce the stress of their treatment. It’s the first time that radiotherapy treatment is being provided above ground level in the UK. Alison is delighted by the design decision, and continues to be a keen supporter of the Cancer Centre.

Inspired by Alison’s remarkable story? Why not find out how you can raise money for Guy’s Cancer Centre and help support your hospital, just like Alison did!