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North Walsham head returns to school after cancer battle

10:40 24 May 2013

Caroline Brooker returns to work at North Walsham High School after being treated for ovarian cancer. Pictured with students Natalie Smith 16, Sophie Smith 16, Chris Plummer 16, Josh Duckmanton 16, Cameron Walker 16 and Rebecca Johnson 16.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Caroline Brooker returns to work at North Walsham High School after being treated for ovarian cancer. Pictured with students Natalie Smith 16, Sophie Smith 16, Chris Plummer 16, Josh Duckmanton 16, Cameron Walker 16 and Rebecca Johnson 16. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2013

A head teacher is getting ready to return to school after a battle with the “hidden killer” of ovarian cancer.

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North Walsham High head Caroline Brooker was diagnosed last summer and has been through a difficult winter of surgery, chemotherapy and losing her hair.

But she is now easing herself back into the job and is set to return to the school full-time in September.

Along the way she was buoyed by the goodwill messages and fund-raising efforts of her students and staff.

“It was really encouraging,” said Mrs Brooker, 51.

“At first the only contact I had was through social media because of the risk of infection. But I also received poems and hand-made cards through the post from the children.

“When I made my first return to school and walked in with my new image and different hairstyle one of the Year 9 boys just said ‘welcome back’ without any flicker about me looking different.

“It was very positive,” said Mrs Brooker.

She is currently on a phased return to work and is due to be back to full duties when the new school year begins in September.

Last year she was looking forward to the summer holidays, because she was feeling tired and bloated.

“I just felt out of sorts and also put it down being menopausal. But after a series of blood tests they diagnosed ovarian cancer.

“They say it is the hidden killer. I felt pretty shocked, had a course of chemotherapy to shrink it, an operation for a full removal and more chemotherapy.

“I was in hospital a week, then did lots of reading and learned to use Twitter as I recovered.”

Motivated by the head’s situation, a 10-strong team of staff ran the Norwich half-marathon and raised £1,000 for ovarian cancer charity.

Students also did their bit with a run around the school field for the cause.

Norwich-born Mrs Brooker has been a teacher since 1983 and is in her eighth year at North Walsham.

Her previous schools include high schools at Heartsease and Earlham in Norwich, Wymondham, Bowthorpe and Bungay.

She is looking forward to returning to North Walsham “just to be part of the school again, and to hear about the youngsters and their successes.”

The mother-of-three, who lives in Norwich, said she also now felt “fit and well” and had her energy back.

And she hoped her story would “give encouragement to others to “keep believing, be brave and be strong.”

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