Our Dot leaves proud legacy following a life less ordinary

Cancer drug campaigner Dot Griffiths.

Cancer drug campaigner Dot Griffiths.

I’ve been fortunate enough, through my work, to meet lots of fascinating and even famous people.

Royalty, musicians, stars of sport and entertainment – I’ve rubbed shoulders with quite a few household names.

Here in the Potteries, of course, we have our own group of celebrities including a pop superstar, TV and stage personalities and one of the world’s greatest sportsmen.

They are all, in their own way, special people deserving of praise who are great ambassadors for North Staffordshire.

But I can honestly say, hand on heart, that the person who has left the greatest impression on me in the last 20 years isn’t any of the above.

Rather it is a woman whose bravery and selflessness shine as a beacons of hope to us all – even as we mourn her passing.

Dot Griffiths died on Friday.

She was, by her own admission, an ordinary woman.

But by anyone’s estimation this grandmother from Hartshill lived a truly extraordinary life.

For 11 years Dot spat in the eye of fate – living, as she did, in the shadow of terminal cancer.

Having fought and won the right to receive the experimental, life-prolonging drug Herceptin back in 2001 anyone would have forgiven her if she had focused on herself during the time she had left.

But that wasn’t Dot’s style.

Despite undergoing a gruelling course of chemotherapy she organised a group of fellow cancer sufferers into a campaign group that became impossible to ignore.

It was a campaign group that went all the way to 10 Downing Street and forced a change in the law which ended the postcode lottery of NHS treatment in relation to Herceptin.

Clad in pink these formidable ladies were – and still remain – the pride of the Potteries.

But they will tell you that it was Dot who was the glue that bound them together.

An appeal fund, named in her honour, then went on to raise more than £100,000 for the oncology unit at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.

Our Dot’s wonderful achievements didn’t go unnoticed, of course.

In 2005 she was named Stoke-on-Trent’s Citizen of the Year.

The following year she was invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen.

Dot being Dot, she considered herself representing ‘her girls’ back in the Potteries.

Personally, I remember the night of September 28, 2008, when Dot and the Women Fighting For Herceptin won The Sentinel Editor’s Award at the Our Heroes ceremony.

Two months earlier I had been diagnosed with cancer and five days before the Our Heroes bash I went under the knife to have my thyroid removed.

In spite of much mithering from my doctors and loved ones I was determined to be there on the night as compere because I wanted to be the one to invite Dot and her pals up on to the stage.

Underneath my shirt and dickie bow my neck was bandaged, sweaty and aching. If the truth be told I was knackered.

I remember ad-libbing that I would have ‘crawled over broken glass’ to be able to announce the award.

Everyone stood, Dot cried happy tears and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.

My doctor had said: ‘cancer isn’t what it used to be’ and, to me, Dot Griffiths was living proof of that.

I was lucky. My cancer was operable and my chances good.

In 1999 when the tumour was discovered in Dot’s breast it was described as the “size of an orange” and doctors told her she had only 12 to 18 months to live.

As it was the ‘ordinary’ woman from Hartshill soldiered on for more than a decade, lived to see her grandchildren born and watched them grow.

More than that, she found within herself the strength to help others who followed in her footsteps.

We are privileged to call this ‘ordinary’ woman, to whom countless thousands of women and their families across the UK, owe a debt of gratitude, one of our own.

Dot may be gone, but her legacy lives on and her life serves as an inspiration to us all.

I can think of no-one more deserving of a posthumous OBE than our Dot.

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