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Mum of four says thanks to cancer centre staff with a four-figure donation

Image shows a group of women holding a large cheque.

Family and friends rallied around a Swansea mum wanting to thank hospital staff who cared for her during the darkest days of her life.

They were joined by a West End singing star to raise more than £6,000, which mother-of-four Laura Vavoulas has now donated to the Chemotherapy Day Unit (CDU) at the South West Wales Cancer Centre.

Laura, Bonita and friends hand over the cheque at the Chemotherapy Day Unit. Joining them are health care support worker Carolyne Paddison (third left) and CDU sister Allison Church (right).

Laura was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive form of the disease in the autumn of 2022. She was aged 34 at the time, with her children aged between five and 14.

Image shows a woman with long hair, and then with short hair. “That day I felt like my whole world had ended,” said Laura, who has thankfully been given the all-clear after long and gruelling treatment.

“I went into panic over my four children. I thought I was going to die, and I asked the doctor that question exactly.

”To be told there are no definite answers, no guarantees, is the most terrifying feeling. I just couldn’t take it all in.”

Following her diagnosis, Laura underwent six months of chemotherapy at the CDU, part of the South West Wales Cancer Centre at Swansea’s Singleton Hospital, followed by surgery and radiotherapy.

Laura with husband Ben while she still had long hair; and after her head-shave

The chemotherapy was, she said, far from plain sailing, with side effects including cellulitis, abscesses, poor liver function, sickness and fatigue.

“The treatment was awful. It was the scariest thing I had ever done, and I hated going,” she said. “But the nurses at the CDU were amazing.

“They helped me feel at ease. They were so attentive and lovely, and I felt that, in this dark time, I had made friends for life.”

Laura previously had long hair, which she regarded as her shield. It was, she said, usually the first thing anyone who met her commented on.

Following her diagnosis, she researched ways of preventing hair loss while she underwent treatment.

“I know that in the grand scale of things, worrying about hair loss was a small thing but to me it was part of my identity,” she said.

Image shows a woman wearing a cold cap during chemotherapy. Laura found out about cold caps, which are available at Singleton Hospital and can prevent or reduce hair loss.

Laura wearing the cold cap during treatment

Unfortunately, despite this, Laura’s hair started thinning. When after three months she needed a stronger dose of chemo and her hair came out quickly, she made the decision to shave her head.

Then on 30th June last year, after what she called the worst experience of her life, Laura was given the news that she had beaten the cancer.

Throughout all this Laura had the unwavering support of her husband Ben, her children, family and friends. And this support remained undiminished when she decided to give something back to the CDU.

With the help of close friend Bonita Richards, Laura inspired a series of fundraising events at Dunvant Workingmen’s Club.

Bonita said: “It’s not very often in life you meet someone as kind as Laura. Her compassion for others knows no bounds and despite the darkest time in her life her focus was still on helping others.

“The fundraising project was all created by Laura and as the team around her, we wanted to make it shine as brilliantly as she does.

“Laura wanted to do something that was meaningful and support the staff at the chemo unit who helped her so much. We had so many ideas for events that we decided to put them all on.

“The first was a charity night with a local band, What’s Occurin’, who played for free. We had so many donations from people locally for some amazing prizes for a raffle. We raised more than £1,000 in raffle ticket sales.

“Following that, we did a coffee morning. We asked locals to help us with cake donations and we raised in the region of £700 that day. We had huge support from the club, which let us hold the events there for free.”

For the final event, Swansea-born West End star Ria Jones – who has spoken of her own experience of breast cancer – performed, also for free, at the club, with the sell-out event raising £2,000.

Image shows two women smiling into the camera. Laura had originally hoped to donate £2,500 to the CDU, which would have covered the cost of a new cold cap.

Laura (left) with friend and co-fundraiser Bonita Richards

In the end, she, Bonita and other fundraising friends from Dunvant Workingmen’s Club, attended Singleton Hospital to donate £6,320.70 to the South West Wales Cancer Fund.

This supports the South West Wales Cancer Centre (SWWCC) at Singleton and is one of hundreds of individual funds that come under the umbrella of Swansea Bay Health Charity, the health board’s official charity.

Money raised is used for equipment, staff training, research and special projects for the benefit of our patients and staff, above and beyond what the NHS can provide.

Laura added: “Everyone in the unit is so lovely. They work their backsides off and they don’t get enough credit for it.

“This is my way of giving back to them because they helped me through one of the darkest times of my life.”

Oncology services manager Kate Ashton said: “We are very grateful to Laura, her family and friends for the fundraising they have done for the chemo day unit at the SWWCC, at what was a very difficult, challenging time for her.

“We are currently working towards enhancing the patient environment across cancer services. It is the fundraising activities of people like Laura that enable us to do this.”

If this story has inspired you to raise funds for your local NHS then Swansea Bay Health Charity would love to hear from you. Email the charity team at:

Swansea Bay Health Charity (registered charity number 1122805) is the official charity of Swansea Bay University Health Board. We use charitable funds to improve patient care and staff wellbeing throughout the health board by providing equipment, staff training, funding research and completing special projects, which go above and beyond what the NHS is able to provide.

For more information, visit the charity’s website:

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