South Shields breast cancer survivor follows her dreams

Helen Hartley (left) with Allison Cowen  from TEDCO
Helen Hartley (left) with Allison Cowen from TEDCO

A cancer survivor has turned her love of dogs into a business after overcoming the biggest battle of her life.

Helen Hartley was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013.

Helen Hartley with one os her clients

Helen Hartley with one os her clients

The 50-year-old underwent four successive surgeries in two years as she fought the disease and says it was that which was the kickstart she needed to follow her dreams.

The former customer services operations manager at South Tyneside Council said: “I knew that my highly stressful job could no longer fit with how I wanted to spend my life.

“Breast cancer really made me evaluate my lifestyle and after my second surgery in September 2014 I decided I needed to start making plans for a new career which incorporated more of my passions and less of the stress I was hoping to leave behind.”

She added: “It wasn’t an easy decision. For 20 years all of the plans I had made had led me to the point I was at in my career but it no longer felt like something I wanted to carry on with.

Breast cancer really made me evaluate my lifestyle

Helen Hartley

“I started to research setting up a dog walking business but it seemed too big a jump to leave everything I had worked for behind. However, 18 months later the opportunity arose to leave my job and make good on my plans to become self-employed.”

Helen has been cancer free for the past four years and is now running her own dog walking business - We Like Walkies.

Helen added: “When looking for the right kind of venture, I knew I wanted something that incorporated my love of the outdoors. As a lifelong dog lover and owner it seemed to me that services to support our canine friends could be a perfect business opportunity. People these days have such busy lives and I wanted to provide a dog walking service that helped those unable to get out and about with their dogs during the day. It is nice to think that people come to rely on me as part of their weekly support network.”

Helen was supported in setting up her business by Allison Cowen from TEDCO, through the New Enterprise Allowance Scheme (NEA).

Helen said: “I’ve gone from sleeping with my work phone next to my bed and being on call 24/7, to living the kind of outdoors life I always wanted. It’s great to be able to support so many people who trust me to look after their dogs. When I started I set myself an earnings target and I have now achieved that, which is a fantastic position to be in so soon after launching my business.”

For information on TEDCO visit www.tedco.org