Myeloma ac­tivist tells sur­vival story

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMUNITY -

JUDY DEWINTER was a high-fly­ing City busi­ness­woman, head­ing the Euro­pean prod­uct divi­sion for a ma­jor bro­ker, In­stinet. Trusted to sign off ma­jor deals, she trav­elled the world, end­ing up in Amer­ica with her hus­band and two young chil­dren, where she worked at the com­pany’s New York of­fice.

Then in 1998, at the age of 33, she was di­ag­nosed with myeloma, an in­cur­able bone mar­row can­cer, and told she had three years to live. Yet she is very much still alive, chair­ing the Myeloma UK char­ity.

She has raised its pro­file, help­ing to dou­ble its an­nual in­come to £3.5 mil­lion, and has called on the gov­ern­ment to do more to ad­dress the high cost of myeloma drugs. Partly be­cause of the char­ity’s ef­forts, sur­vival rates for myeloma pa­tients have dou­bled.

On Wed­nes­day, Jewish Care recog­nised Mrs Dewinter’s achieve­ments by pre­sent­ing her with the To­p­land Award at its an­nual busi­ness lunch in cen­tral Lon­don, at­tended by 650 sup­port­ers and rais­ing £275,000.

Speak­ing ahead of the lunch, Ms Dewinter, 50, re­called that the di­ag­no­sis had been a huge shock.

She had seen a spe­cial­ist af­ter feel­ing fa­tigued. Re­ferred to a haema­tol­o­gist, she was then asked to give a bone mar­row sam­ple.

Two hours later, the spe­cial­ist gave her the news. “The doc­tor had tears in his eyes. He said: ‘You’ve got two or three years to live’. I can’t de­scribe what im­pact that had.

“Out­side the of­fice, I walked out into bright sun­shine on Madi­son Av­enue and saw a Baby Gap shop. I thought: ‘I’m not go­ing to get to see my kids go to pri­mary school — I don’t want any­one else to choose their clothes’. When we got into the car, I just sunk down, hys­ter­i­cal.”

That year, her fam­ily moved back to Lon­don. She quit her job in 2003, hav­ing con­tin­ued work­ing through the five years be­fore her first ma­jor treat­ment, keep­ing her di­ag­no­sis a se­cret.

“I didn’t talk about it. I had hun­dreds of men work­ing for me and did not want to make ex­cuses — be­ing a woman or be­ing ill. I didn’t want any­one to feel sorry for me.”

Now based in West Hamp­stead, she has been a con­stant sup­porter of Myelo­maUKan­dis­al­soagov­er­no­rof theRoyal Free Lon­don NHS Foundation Trust.

“I never thought I would have been use­ful to a char­ity,” she con­fessed. “It is more im­por­tant than any­thing I have ever done. I can see the im­pact.”

Raised in Chig­well, where her par­ents were key fig­ures in the lo­cal United syn­a­gogue, she has un­der­gone two bone mar­row trans­plants and chemo­ther­apy and is still be­ing treated on a main­te­nance drug. The To­p­land Award has res­o­nance as her fam­ily have been strong Jewish Care sup­port­ers.

“A a bit of a rebel” in her youth, she did not go to univer­sity. “My par­ents did not know what to do with me. So I

‘I thought I’m not go­ing to see my kids go to school’

went to St Go­dric’s Sec­re­tar­ial Col­lege in Hamp­stead.” It led to a po­si­tion as ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary at a com­pany that was later taken over by In­stinet.

“It just opened my eyes. I was mak­ing Pow­er­Point pre­sen­ta­tions and I thought: ‘This is not rocket sci­ence — I un­der­stand it’.” She passed her broking ex­ams at 21 and pushed for, and got, a po­si­tion on a trad­ing desk. “I heard through doors that the boss from the States re­ally liked me be­cause I was this feisty young Jewish girl. I had to push my­self for them to take a bet on me.”

PHOTO: JUSTIN GRAINGE

Judy Dewinter ad­dresses the To­p­land lunch

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