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Real Stories...

My name is Michelle

Remembering Michelle Ladbrook

This blog post is to pay tribute to Michelle Ladbrook: a loving wife, sister and much missed member of our Wee Family.

 

“Michelle was my wife for 14 years. I'd known her for probably 19 years, maybe a little bit longer. And so, I guess like most people she enjoyed life and it was full of happiness and everything was great. She absolutely adored her work. She worked for Charities Aid Foundation. She loved it and a lot of her colleagues were primarily friends and I think that's a reflection of Michelle. She was so, so thorough and had a real eye for detail all the time and yes, she was always wanting to help. She wanted to help I think even in her last few months. It was a real struggle for her, but I still feel like she wanted to reach out and make other people aware of what can happen with this dreadful, dreadful disease.”

Michelle Ladbrook was 52 years old and enjoying her life, her family and friends. She enjoyed travelling and worked hard in her job at the Charities Aid Foundation. Her and her family’s lives were turned upside down in February 2020 when, after noticing blood in her urine and experiencing what were then diagnosed as multiple UTI’s, Michelle was finally taken for an MRI scan which revealed multiple tumours in her bladder. She was diagnosed with stage 3 muscle invasive bladder cancer. She was urgently started on a course of chemo and then taken in for a cystectomy. “It was a tough period. The surgeon mentioned that there was potential (because it was muscle invasive) that it could spread to the lymph nodes, so he advised Michelle have chemo first and then have the surgery afterwards. So that's about the timeline: first diagnosis was August 2020, she had her operation in September 2020 and then she had chemo in October and November. Obviously, this was right in the pandemic, so COVID did affect it badly. She had her urostomy in February 2021.”

After her treatment, Michelle struggled to come to terms with her urostomy, but met the challenge head on. She found endless joy and wonder in travelling, a passion shared with her husband – even while adjusting to her new normal as a bladder cancer patient and stoma wearer. This blog post is to pay tribute to Michelle Ladbrook: a loving wife, sister and much missed member of our Wee Family. “We’d been to South America and many other continents. And it was wonderful. A lot of memories there to cherish. And recently, she was into a little bit of running and her cycling, as well mountain biking. She was restricted with that, what with her chemo and urostomy, but it didn't seem to affect her. She still carried on and wanted to do running and go out on her bike, bless her, so there’s nothing but happy memories and I'm so proud. I'm so proud of what she had to deal with. Even her work ethic and how well received she was at work was something to behold and I know for a fact with chatting to people there that she's left a massive hole in that organization.” Michelle’s family and friends were overjoyed when her follow up CT scans in the first year postsurgery came back clear. During this time, Michelle decided she wanted to be there for others who were going through this difficult journey. She joined the Fight Bladder Cancer (FBC) Facebook forum where she offered support and advice to others going through their diagnoses and treatment. She set up several fundraisers and was very proactive in raising awareness about bladder cancer amongst her friends, family, and community. Just before September 2022, Phil and Michelle went to Cornwall for a holiday with friends. Neither she nor her friends and family could have known then that it was not to be the holiday they imagined.

“Michelle was looking forward to this week away. We got down there for a day, and she wasn't feeling particularly well. The next day she woke up and said “Well, I've got to go to A&E”. We had to go back to Plymouth and after 10 or 11 hours, we left, came back home and then we were back in hospital.” Michelle’s last scan came as a shock to her and to everyone around her. “It was a complete disaster. The lymph nodes were infected, the gallbladder was too and more importantly so was her liver - which is completely devastating as you can imagine.” Michelle’s sister, Sam, was blindsided by her quick decline in the weeks that followed. “It happened so quickly. We weren't ready. I thought she would have the chemo, would be better and then be on our way again.” Devastatingly, there was little more to be done and Michelle was only able to have palliative care and passed away a short 5 weeks later.

For Phil, Sam and everyone else that knew her, life has had to go on, but they have honoured Michelle’s memory in the time since her passing by continuing her mission to make sure more people know about bladder cancer and that no one goes through it alone. Phil has completed multiple fundraisers for Fight Bladder Cancer over the years. “It was a no brainer for us. I know how small the charity is and we wanted to do our bit to help raise awareness. Everywhere I have run in the last 18 months, two years, I've always been wearing the orange FBC top, I’m not sure whether people take much notice! But I’d never heard of bladder cancer and I suppose I was a bit naive. I didn't even know anything about bladder cancer before Mich was diagnosed with it. But it isn’t rare, it’s in the top five of cancers.”

For Sam, spreading awareness about the signs and symptoms of bladder cancer remains a big priority, as it was for Michelle. “With Michelle’s send-off we all had family members wearing little orange ribbons and I still wear mine now on my lanyard. When I go out, I get people saying “Oh, what's that orange ribbon for?” and so that's when I then explain it. It is a good conversation starter having that orange ribbon on me.” Phil is driven forward by the tenacity he saw in Michelle to help others and his desire to make sure no one else goes through what she did. “We need to carry on doing this as Mich’s legacy. Looking back in hindsight, I think there was too long of a time from first having the blood in urine to getting it checked out. If we could have caught it early, then we might have stood a better chance.”

Michelle’s friends and family took part in the Brighton Marathon and 10k on Sunday 2nd April to raise awareness for bladder cancer and do something inspirational in her memory. They have raised a massive £18,000 for the charity in Michelle's name and Fight Bladder Cancer wants to thank every person who has donated to this life-changing amount. We miss Michelle dearly.

Bladder cancer is the 5th most common cancer in the UK and can affect people of all ages. It is our mission to make sure bladder cancer is caught and treated as early as possible. If you would like to get involved or just want to share your or a loved one’s story, get in touch. Our helpline and support services aren’t just for patients, they’re also for friends and family so please reach out anytime.

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We’ve tried to make the information on this site as accurate as possible. Whilst we have support from medical professionals to review the general medical content of this site, please remember that only your medical team can give you specific advice about your symptoms or illness. Fight Bladder Cancer is a registered Charitable Incorporated Organisation in Scotland (SC051881), England and Wales (1198773), and was initially established as an unincorporated charity in England and Wales (1157763). It also operates in Northern Ireland.