A woman with incurable cancer has opened up about her battle with the disease, as a thought-provoking exhibition opens.

Laura Ashurst, 56, from Stokesley, was diagnosed with primary breast cancer 23 years ago as a new mother to her second child.  

She has been battling incurable cancer ever since. 

Metastatic (secondary) breast cancer occurs when the cancer has travelled from the primary breast site through the blood or lymphatic system to a distant area of the body. When this happens, it becomes an incurable disease.

Laura is one of several featured in a new exhibition highlighting the plight of the 31 women who die every day of metastatic (secondary) breast cancer (MBC), which has come to North Yorkshire for the first time.

The ‘Darker Side of Pink’ will be on display at our Treadmills development in Northallerton until Monday, June 3. 

Darlington and Stockton Times: Laura Ashurst, 56, from Stokesley (right)Laura Ashurst, 56, from Stokesley (right) (Image: NORTH YORKSHIRE COUNCIL)

Laura said: “I was diagnosed with metastatic (secondary) breast cancer in 2007 affecting my lungs and I have been living with this incurable disease ever since.

“The exhibition is extremely powerful – this disease is a killer and goes unheard of. The reality is people are dying and we need people to sit up and take notice and make sure women get the treatment and the support they need. There is nothing fluffy and pink about metastatic (secondary) breast cancer – there is a much darker side to it.

“My metastatic breast cancer is currently stable but not everyone has stability for as long as I have and through this exhibition, we hope to get that message across.” 

It is the exhibition’s first outing in 2024, its first visit to the North East and North Yorkshire, and it coincides with the MATUPUK Metastatic May campaign which is highlighting metastatic (secondary) breast cancer.

As part of the display, clear perspex figures stand proudly overlooking the central square, each bearing a QR code which when scanned tells the story of the 31 women they represent. 

Sadly, since the exhibition was first launched three years ago by campaigning charity, METUPUK, ten of those women have died from the disease – which is the leading cause of deaths of women aged 35 to 64 in England.

METUPUK, which was founded by Jo Taylor who is living with metastatic (secondary) breast cancer, is the UK’s only patient advocacy group dedicated to this type of cancer and is committed to driving change for patients around awareness, drug access, clinical trials and data collection.

Jo, who has been living with it for 10 years, said: “We're a volunteer-led organisation which promotes issues affecting those with metastatic (secondary) breast cancer.

“The ‘Darker Side of Pink’ is an impactful physical interactive mobile and online experience, via a powerful display that counteracts the other, more fluffy, baby pink-branded campaigns. Many of the videos are incredibly emotional, as befits the seriousness of the subject. 

“The reality is 11,500 women die of this every year, but we are not being heard. We hope through this exhibition and our charity that will change and we can see those deaths reduced and outcomes and survival increased.”

Executive member for health and adult services at North Yorkshire Council, Cllr Michael Harrison, added: “We are delighted to see this exhibition come to our county town. It is sending out vital messages to everyone and we urge people to go along and listen to what these women are saying.”

The exhibition is on display in the glass windows next to the C4DI unit in Treadmills and it will be visible 24 hours a day until June 3.