A BREAST cancer sufferer has been helping transform the lives of others undergoing treatment by coaching them fishing.

South West Fishing for Life was set up five years ago to act as therapy and respite for people who are suffering or recovering from breast cancer.

Gillian Payne, 67, of Brompton Regis, came up with the idea but recruited qualified coach Sally Pizii, her husband Tony and South-West Lakes manager Chris Hallto use Wimbleball Lake on Exmoor.

Sally, 62, from Curry Mallet, was diagnosed with breast cancer 13 years ago and said she can relate to the worries and problems the ladies who come to the sessions have.

She said: “I lost my hair and put on weight – I looked like a bald hamster so it does not do a lot for your self-esteem.

“But I understand how they feel so I try to make them feel at ease and to be positive about everything you do.

“If a similar group was around when I was going through my treatment I would have taken it up because it gets you out of the house, you are being active and meeting people who are in or have been in the same situation as you.”

The group sessions have become very popular and attract 30 members, mostly women, at Wimbleball Lake who fish for two hours and then have a sitdown lunch.

There are six branches across the South West including Chew Valley, Dorset, Kennick Reservoir in Dartmoor and Siblyback Lake in Cornwall.

They attract members from hospitals across the county including Musgrove Park and the sessions are free thanks to the hiring of the lake being waived by the South-West Lakes Trust, grant funding and donations for equipment so people can fish.

Gillian said the inspiration behind her idea came from reading a book about a lady suffering from breast cancer and then she heard how fishing techniques proved beneficialto build up tissues and muscle for people who were undergoing treatment.

She added: “We just try to help the ladies move on with their lives by giving them something different to do.

“We welcome families and friends to support and enjoy the lake while the ladies fish and then join us for the refreshments.”

The group were given The Queen’s Award, equivalent to an MBE, at the weekend for voluntary services across the South West.

If you are interested in joining the sessions, contact Gillian on 01398- 371244 or email holworthyfarm@aol.com