For mother-of-two Elizabeth Manford, becoming pregnant at 16 does not mean your life is over.
And getting cancer is not a death sentence.
Instead, all Elizabeth’s life experiences have helped to shape her and although she admits her journey has not been easy following a teenage pregnancy, family deaths and cancer, she wants to encourage other women who may think it is too late that they can achieve their dreams.
The 48-year-old has been running The Wax House Candle Company from her Poulton home since 2016 and has met so many other inspirational women.
She says: “I want to share my story to encourage other women to do the things in life that they wanted to and not to give up.
“You can start a business at any age. I’m 48 now and I questioned whether I was too old, but you are never too old.
“Growing up, I was a bit of a rebel. I had a long term boyfriend in my teenage years and I got pregnant at 16. I wanted to go to a drama and arts school in London but my dreams were shattered. I concentrated on looking after my son.
“My mum helped me look after him and I went to work to bring money in. I progressed from a secretary to accountancy and was an office manager for more than 20 years."
Elizabeth found love with her husband, Adrian, who runs Adrian Manford Hair Design, in Lytham, and she gave birth to her second son. But life changed when Elizabeth was diagnosed with breast cancer the week before Christmas in 2008, aged 37. It was already an illness she was familiar with, having lost her mum, Beryl Malkinson, to it more than 23 years ago. Her diagnosis made her reassess where she was going and she decided on a career change.
She said: “I noticed I had lumpy mass gristle. It didn’t feel right and hurt. I was misdiagnosed at first but I followed my gut and went private. After an ultra sound, two lumps were discovered growing in my breast.
“I had a full mastectomy where my cancer originated because they found two lumps. I then later found out that I carried the BRCA2 gene. “I had an 80 per cent chance that my cancer would return and to reduce this risk, I had to have a further mastectomy in my other breast, along with a full hysterectomy to reduce the oestrogen in my body. This put me in to early menopause at the age of 39.
“It was horrendous as I felt my body was being chopped in bits and it was hard seeing other women my age in bikinis.
“But it has kept me alive for 11 years. I am the longest surviving member of the family who has had cancer. My cousin, Sue Harvey, sadly died of cancer last December, aged 52.
“From my experiences, I got strength as you don’t know how long you have got.
“I spent hours working out my finances with my husband as I was not happy with my career path. I didn’t want to sit in an office, so I gave up my job and I redid my GCSEs. I enrolled at Blackpool and Fylde College in 2010 and did a history and heritage management degree.
“I loved fragrances and creating things so I took the bull by the horns and set up my own business. I have a shop at our home in Normoss Road, Poulton, and a website, www.thewaxhouse.co.uk.
“Cancer made me do that. You go into survival mode. I want to encourage other women who reach a dark point that there is life after cancer and it is not a death sentence. It didn’t kill me and it encourage me to be the best I could be and to get the best out of my life.”
As part of this ethos, Elizabeth is keen to promote other independent businesses in Blackpool and is part of the women’s business networking group Pink Link.
She added: “There are a lot of niche shops and Pink Link brings local women in the ‘cottage industry’ together as we support and encourage each other.
“We are trying to put businesses in the Fylde coat on the map.
“I have joined with Lancashire Gift Company in Rossendale who works with artisan companies to put together their products as part of gift packs, which is great as it is small local companies supporting each other.”