THE mother-of-three who launched Bolton charity Chemo Mums to help families cope with cancer treatment has died from the disease.
Lesley Bennison, who lived at Eagley Brook, was 52 and had successfully fought breast cancer after being diagnosed with an aggressive form in 2004.
But 18 months ago, cancer was discovered in her liver and spine, and she had chemotherapy at The Christie Hospital in Manchester.
The treatment failed to halt the disease, however, and she was admitted to the Royal Bolton Hospital a fortnight ago, where she died.
“Lesley was an amazing person,” said her mother, Valerie McFadyen. “She made a difference to so many lives and was really special.”
Mrs Bennison was 41 and bringing up three young boys when her cancer was originally diagnosed.
She underwent more than two years of surgery and gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy, discovering just how difficult it was for mothers with young families to cope with normal daily life during this difficult period.
She wanted to do something to help ease the burden for other families so, along with colleagues Jan Haworth and Joyce Sullivan, she founded Chemo Mums.
The charity recruited specialist volunteers and other helpers to provide a network of support for women undergoing chemotherapy, including picking up their children from school and taking them to various activities.
Mrs Bennison said the charity was “helping when mums are at their weakest, giving them one less thing to worry about”.
The charity caught local and national attention and was praised by many — and Mrs Bennison was chosen as a finalist in the Bolton Woman of the Year Awards in recognition of her campaign.
She fitted her self-chosen voluntary “job” around her post as a physiotherapist at the Royal Bolton Hospital.
“From being a little girl, Lesley always wanted to learn, always had her nose in a book.” recalled her mother. She had been a pupil at Turton High School before studying physiotherapy at college and took additional qualifications in acupuncture to further the help she could offer her patients.
Her work in acupuncture was recognised by Prince Charles, a champion of complementary therapy, and Mrs Bennison was invited to meet him at St James’s Palace as well as being a guest at a dinner at Highgrove House.
“Lesley had a brilliant sense of humour, was kind, caring and always interested in people,” added Mrs McFadyen. “Over the last few years, so many people have told me how Lesley and Chemo Mums helped their lives. I have always been so proud of her.”
Mrs McFadyen said she was particularly grateful for the care her daughter received at the Royal Bolton Hospital.
Mrs Bennison is survived by her sons, Sebastian, now 21, 18 year-old Isaac, and Jake, aged 12, her sister Tracey McQuaid and her mother.
A funeral service will be held at 1pm at Bolton Parish Church on Friday (July 5) which is open to all, followed by a private committal at Overdale.
Donations in Lesley’s memory can be sent to The Christie Hospital, marked for research.