Face to face with Christine Guy

In her latest Face to Face interview, KAREN BETHELL talks to Christine Guy, whose experience of breast cancer prompted her partner Robin to raise more than £5,000 to help others suffering from the disease.

In her latest Face to Face interview, KAREN BETHELL talks to Christine Guy, whose experience of breast cancer prompted her partner Robin to raise more than £5,000 to help others suffering from the disease. The couple married in the summer, and guests at a blessing held at Binham Priory ranged from North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, to whom Christine is personal assistant, to an extra special, four-legged VIP . . .

Born the youngest of 3 in Enfield, North London, Christine's earliest memories are of her whole family travelling to Beeston Regis for camping holidays, squeezed on board her father's motorbike and sidecar.

Her childhood happiness was dealt a blow however, when her mother Florence was taken ill and died from a brain tumour when Christine was just 7.

She and her 2 older brothers were sent to live with Florence's sister Gladys, a formidable woman who, to Christine, was both an aunt and a mother.

After leaving school, Christine worked as a shipping clerk for a London firm, later taking various jobs with city stockbrokers. She married aged 21 and moved to Edmonton, where she worked in the offices of a local transport company.

In the late 1970s, she moved to Sheringham and, after working for a firm of Norwich solicitors, took a temporary job providing maternity cover at Norman Lamb's constituency office at North Walsham before going to work as a legal secretary at Fakenham.

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Sadly, Christine's first marriage ended, but she found happiness again when she met and fell in love with former Sheringham policeman Robin Guy, whom she describes as her “rock”.

But, attending a routine mammogram 4 years ago, she was shocked to be told the test showed abnormalities and, after being sent to Norwich for a biopsy, which showed she had an aggressive form of breast cancer, Christine was hurriedly admitted to hospital, where she underwent a mastectomy.

After slowly regaining her confidence after the operation, she decided to change jobs and took over as personal assistant to Mr Lamb in 2005.

Inspired by Christine's stoicism, and by the first class treatment she had received, Robin decided that, in his year as master of Blakeney Masonic Lodge, he would aim to raise £1,000 for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital's Breast Cancer Resource Fund, which provides financial assistance to breast cancer sufferers.

With the help of Blakeney merchandising company owner Brian Taylor, Robin had 250 enamel badges made, all of which were quickly sold.

He and Christine went on to sell a further 500 of the badges, which feature the masonic square and compasses against a pink breast cancer ribbon background, and raised a total of £5,100.

The badges are still selling, and the couple are well on the way to raising their next £1,000.

Christine and Robin were married in July at North Walsham register office and, following a family tradition started by her grandmother, Christine's guest of honour at their wedding blessing at Binham Priory was her blind Jack Russell cross Scraps.

What is the best thing about your job?

The variety - I never know from one day to the next what I will be doing.

And the worst?

There is never enough time. With someone as busy as Norman Lamb, looking after his diary is a major part of the job and, really, you need 90 seconds in a minute, 90 minutes in an hour and 30 hours in a day.

What is the one possession you would save if your house was on fire?

Photographs of my mother are very precious. I don't have many memories of her, but members of the family tell me I'm very like her.

What is your favourite Norfolk building?

It was very important to me to have my wedding blessing at Binham Priory. To me, there is a peace and serenity about the place and it just oozes spirituality.

Where do you go to unwind?

I love wide open spaces and so do our dogs Scraps and Maisie, so that would have to be Holkham beach.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I'd have a bit more patience.

Have you ever done anything outrageous?

Not really, I've always been a bit boring! However, myself and some friends

did once 'acquire' some trays from a mountainside bar in Austria and slid down a hill on them at midnight on New Year's Eve!

What is your proudest moment?

I think raising the money for the Norfolk and Norwich was a good feeling and I felt incredibly proud of Rob. And although, waiting to hand the cheque over, I had to sit in the same seat where I was told I had breast cancer, it was nice to go back to the hospital for a good occasion without that worry hanging over me. I have always been very open about what's happened to me and the surprising thing to come out of selling the badges is the number of people who have come up to me and spoken about their experiences - breast cancer touches so many people.

Who do you most admire?

My Aunt Gladys, who was 5 feet and 6 stone of sheer determination. She was a very strong person and, now I'm an adult, I realise how amazing what she did for me and my brothers was.

What makes you angry?

Vandalism is just beyond my comprehension, but the thing that makes me most angry is when people are treated badly or not listened to just because they have difficulty expressing themselves or perhaps have a poor command of English.

Favourite book, film and TV programme?

Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell is a wonderful book that I've read many times; The Sound of Music has happy memories as I sang all the songs in the school choir and on my hen night, and I don't watch much TV, but I am a complete Archers addict!

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who is cheerful, positive and optimistic.