Julia Thomas: Fought Cancer, Gave Birth and Set Up a Business, Cakeangels
PUBLISHED: 11:34 09 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:35 20 February 2013
Christina Maclean meets the businesswoman whose fight for life has inspired a delicious new career.
Five years ago Julia Thomass world fell apart when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Newly pregnant with her long-awaited first child she and her partner, John, were devastated and were initially advised to terminate the pregnancy. But thanks to pioneering and xperimental treatment which included the then relatively new drug Herceptin and a radical change of diet she fought back and gave birth to her son Charlie in 2004. Now Charlie is starting school and Julia has launched a new business, Cakeangels, which produces a range of dairy gluten and wheat free cakes.
Soon after being diagnosed Julia decided to change her diet to help her battle the disease. She cut dairy and meat from her diet and as Charlie started going to playgroup and childrens parties Julia felt left out when she couldnt tuck into the cake. Unimpressed with the few products on offer she started making her own and taking them to parties and mums and toddlers groups. They went down a storm and she soon realised there was a gap in the market. What started as a way to allow her to join in the fun at social events has developed into a business.
Now as she works on her heavenly creations in the kitchen of her home overlooking the river Wye in Hoarwithy she can hardly believe how far she has come. Ive always like working with my hands and making things and once I saw how successful my cakes were I thought I should develop the idea. This gives me the best of both worlds as I can work from home and be around for Charlie when he gets home from school.
She says that these days she doesnt really talk about her illness but the fact she and Charlie are here at all is testament to her determination and the pioneering treatment she received. When I first found a lump in my breast I didnt think much of it but went to my GP to get it checked out. I thought it was probably a side effect of being pregnant so I wasnt particularly worried about it. I was referred to the hospital a week later and both John and I still thought there was nothing to worry about. I had a biopsy and was told to come back for the results two days later.
As an afterthought as I was leaving I asked the doctor what she thought. When she said she was 90 per cent certain it was cancer I was stunned. John and I spent the next two days in a complete daze while we waited for the results. But worse was to come. When the results came back they showed the malignant tumour was of a particularly aggressive kind and a lumpectomy revealed the disease had already spread to half of Julias lymph nodes. They were advised to terminate the pregnancy but thanks to Julias forward-thinking oncologist and some experimental treatment she continued with the
When we were told the news John and I just cried and cried but I was determined I was going ahead with the pregnancy. The world stood still and I couldnt breathe. All I could think of was what was going to happen to my baby and how I would cope with chemotherapy. But I was very lucky. My oncologist felt he could work around the pregnancy. He came up with a plan of action and it was decided I would have four chemotherapy sessions before the birth and four after. I couldnt have the standard cocktail of drugs because I was pregnant so a special regime was devised for me. Charlie was delivered by Caesarean at 32 weeks and a week later I had four more chemotherapy sessions. Being pregnant was a lifesaver for me.
Dealing with breast cancer is very traumatic but I had something positive to focus on. I also had the Hereford Breast Cancer Haven to support me. They were wonderful, every time I walked through their front door my shoulders relaxed and I could feel the tension leave my body. Everyone was so friendly and nothing fazed them not even a small screaming baby. I always felt I had somewhere to go when I was worried, somewhere that would understand how I was feeling and people I could talk to.
Two weeks after her final chemotherapy treatment Julia had the first of 17 radiotherapy sessions. I was very tired from the treatment and very tired from being a new mum but John and I took it in turns to look after Charlie. Luckily he was a very good baby.
I then had a years course of Herceptin which had just come onto the market. As my energy levels returned I started to get out and about and meet other mums. When everyone else was tucking into some lovely gooey cake I couldnt have any. But rather than feel sorry for myself I decided to make my own. I also decided to try my hand at gluten and wheat free cakes.
They went down so well at parties and friends really enjoyed them that about a year ago I started to think seriously about starting my own business to coincide with Charlie going to school. I did a lot of research and experimented a lot and came up with the concept of Cakeangels.
I am really excited about the future of Cake Angels. I think too many people assume specialist dietary cakes are tasteless and uninspired but hopefully once people, including those who are not on a restricted diet, have tasted my cakes they will decide they are in fact better and see them as the cakes of choice rather than an alternative.
Cakeangels produces a range of dairy, gluten and wheat free cup cakes, tray bakes and bespoke cakes which are available via mail order from Julias website www.cakeangels.co.uk. For the first year Julia is donating 1 from every sale to the Breast Cancer Haven.
Cakeangels order line: 07818 176761