Fundraiser extraordinaire Mandy Taylor has never been more…Mandy.
The inspirational mum-of-one has been on a cancer journey that has had so many twists in the road that most people would have been lost on route.
In our lifetime one in two of us will be diagnosed with cancer but over the last decade Mandy, 53, has been diagnosed with cancer no fewer than three times. And she’s never been afraid to talk about it.
Mandy, from Golcar, has beaten cancer twice but now the disease has returned and this year it was diagnosed as terminal.
Mandy, a business development manager, has been a volunteer since 2004 and has helped raise more than £2 million for good causes across Huddersfield and beyond.
Now she has launched a new campaign #BeMoreMandy which aims to encourage people to be…more like Mandy!
“It’s been an incredible journey but I am a really positive person and life for me now is about quality not quantity,” said Mandy. “It’s about little wins. You can’t change the world but you can make a difference.
“Rather than curl up and cry I have reminded myself that although I cannot add days to my life, I can add life to my days.
“#BeMoreMandy is about encouraging people to stop saying: ‘I will get round to it’ and actually getting out there and doing it.
“I want people to face their fears, as I have, maybe set up a charity challenge, share skills with a good cause – everybody whoever they are can do that – or carry out random acts of kindness. I’ve been known to randomly leave bouquets of flowers on people’s doorsteps!
“I want to help take away the fear of cancer and encourage open and honest conversations. I have never been quiet about it. We have to be loud and show courage.”
Back in 2011 Mandy was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was a busy person, she was in her early 40s. It was something she would tackle head on and take in her stride. Cancer was there to be beaten.
“Me being me I ignored it,” said Mandy. “It was July, I was busy and I left it for a few weeks. Looking back I was foolish. I put everything else before my health.”
Mandy had a lumpectomy, a mastectomy and a breast reconstruction. While she was fighting the disease her partner Andrew proposed – repeatedly.
Mandy eventually said ‘yes’ – on the proviso Andrew planned the wedding and made all the arrangements. Apart from choosing the dress and handing over responsibility for the hen do to a ‘committee’ of Mandy’s closest friends, Andrew booked the lot and the couple married in 2012.
The couple had five years of happy married life before a second cancer bombshell in 2017.
“I was on holiday in Cyprus and by coincidence my friend Christine Talbot (from ITV Calendar) was there. She has also had breast cancer.
“We were in the swimming pool and I felt a little lump on the left side where the mastectomy was done. We dismissed it as a mosquito bite.
“My husband looked at it later and said it wasn’t a mosquito bite but we were reassured because how could it be a lump in a reconstructed breast? We decided we would check it out when we got home.
“We got it checked out and – in a chance in a million – the breast cancer had returned. It was Stage 3 and I had a lumpectomy followed by 20 sessions of chemotherapy.”
Mandy being Mandy she didn’t trust her car to head to St James’ Hospital in Leeds every day and not veer off to the nearest shopping centre!
So she invited people to join her on a car-share karaoke and for every session she headed to Jimmy’s in a different – often wacky – form of transport.
Comedian Billy Pearce joined her and so did Yorkshire actress Gaynor Faye but most were friends, some were complete strangers.
“I can’t believe the generosity of people,” said Mandy. “And the competitiveness! I went in a 1957 fire engine, a pink Cadillac and a hell’s angel motorbike.
“My last journey was in an armed police vehicle with an off-duty police officer and an escort of police motorbikes. I felt like the Queen.”
Mandy had beaten cancer again, with a little help from her friends. However, in 2021 it was back with a vengeance. This time it was a rare and aggressive tumour, and it was terminal.
“I got Covid in November last year and didn’t recover as quickly as I should have,” said Mandy. “I still had headaches and a pain in the face and jawline. Then I started to lose sight in my left eye.
“I was referred for a biopsy in my nose and was told very quickly that I needed to get to Jimmy’s with an overnight bag within 24 hours.”
A tumour the size of an egg had grown into Mandy’s left nostril and was pressing into her brain.
Mandy was diagnosed with sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma (SNUC), a rare cancer of the nasal cavity, and she started chemotherapy in April.
The cancer, mainly found in men, was Stage 4 terminal and the chemotherapy meant Mandy’s long blond hair – her pride and joy – came out in clumps almost immediately.
With 70% of her hair gone Mandy had the rest shaved off and she now wears a wig. She’s lost two stone in weight and her immune system is low but Mandy is still Mandy, hair or no hair.
While she’s been referred to The Kirkwood for care – she describes the hospice as the “closest place to heaven on earth” – and has planned her own funeral – which includes her ashes being scattered in a fireworks display – she remains amazingly positive.
“There’s nothing the doctors can do for me now so there’s even more reason to be more Mandy,” she said.
“#BeMoreMandy will be launching on social media and we want people to post photographs or, ideally if they are comfortable with it, a video saying what they are going to do and why.
“Then I want them to nominate someone – like with the Ice Bucket Challenge – and for it to be kept going.
“I want to pass the baton on. I want people to be inspired to be more Mandy whether that’s for one day or for a lifetime. This could be an amazing legacy.”
#BeMoreMandy T-shirts and a sweatshirt/hoodie, produced by Star Leisure Wear, are available now at £15 and £25 with £5 from the sale of each one going to the #BeMoreMandy Fund, which will be managed by Kirklees One Community.
The money raised will go to support children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in Huddersfield.
To support #BeMoreMandy go to https://www.starleisurewear.com/be-more-mandy-collection
You can follow Mandy on Twitter @Charity_Angels or Instagram @charitymrst