Cancer battle spurred me on to help others

Dr Maria Miles
Dr Maria Miles

A WOMAN who carved out a medical career after overcoming cancer is determined to use her experience to help others.

Dedicated Maria Miles trained to be a doctor after beating Hodgkin’s disease and now tends to people facing problems she once battled.

The 50-year-old now works as a doctor at Hartlepool & District Hospice and says the support network patients receive today contrasts starkly with what she was given during her dark days 27 years ago.

She is grateful for the medical care she received and is determined to provide “whatever help” people now need.

Dr Miles, who was then a full-time mum, had to undergo an intensive year of treatment after being diagnosed when she was 23.

She says it was a very hard time as her daughter was only two at the time, but after surgery at the RVI in Newcastle, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions and with the support of her family she bounced back to health.

It was then that Maria decided to follow her dream of becoming a doctor.

The mum-of-two went through a full year of treatment that started with surgery and was followed by six cycles of chemotherapy and then a few weeks of radiotherapy.

Dr Miles said times have changed since she was battling the condition and there was no help for her and her family to cope with the diagnosis and treatment.

She said: “The most difficult part of my illness was not having anyone to help and support us, that’s me or my family.

“The whole thing hit us like a bolt from the blue – my parents especially just didn’t know what to do.

“Nowadays someone like me would be helped and supported by specialist nurses, counsellors and whoever else I needed to get through my illness.

“The hospice is a place where you can get access to all of this help, but back then we were all alone with my illness and it was very hard.”

Dr Miles, who has lived in Hartlepool Marina for the past three years, is from Whitley Bay and was living in Gateshead at the time of being diagnosed in September 1985.

She is mum to Maria Hryniszak, 29, and her 23-year-old son Andreas Hryniszak.

Her daughter was eight and son two when she started her five-years of medical school at Newcastle University.

Dr Miles, whose husband Marias died in 2004 at the age of 40, said: “Once all the dust had settled I decided that life was too short not to follow my dreams so I decided to go back to university and become a doctor.”

Now in a bid to give something back she will be putting on her running shoes and tackling this year’s BUPA Great North Run alongside Alison Hawkings, 51, who is a nurse at the hospice.

As well as overcoming Hodgkin’s disease, Dr Miles also underwent major spine surgery in 2004 after an accident on a jet ski near Whitley Bay compounded existing back problems and it took her five years to fully recover from it.

But Dr Miles is now looking forward to competing in her first Great North Run.

The pair are raising funds to support hospice care for the communities of Hartlepool and East Durham.

l To sponsor Maria or Alison visit or call (01429) 855529 and speak to Greg Hildreth in the Hospice’s Fundraising Team.

l A great challenge for staff: Page 25.