Band of Builders announces next charity project – for a woman whose dog detected her cancer

A South Shields woman who hit the national news headlines after her dog alerted her to ovarian cancer – will have an outside space built by volunteer landscapers from the charity Band of Builders to help as she recuperates from chemotherapy.

Friends of Tess Robison told her and husband Paul – who is a plasterer – about the support offered by Band of Builders (BoB), a registered charity that completes practical projects to help members of the UK construction industry who are battling illness or injury.

The charity has stepped in and offered to landscape the Robisons’ back garden to make it a more peaceful and relaxing space for Tess to continue her recovery from chemotherapy.

Half a dozen tradespeople – who are part of the BoB community – have answered the call and volunteered their time for free to complete the project, which will take place on the weekend of 19th and 20th March. The main element of the project will be to build a new decked area in the garden so that Tess can sit outside and enjoy the sunshine.

BoB has more than 10,000 supporters from across the construction industry and is backed by major names within the industry, including DEWALT, Jewson, Tarmac, Gibbs & Dandy, V12 Footwear, Talasey, Resideo and Haemmerlin. These big names and local suppliers will donate materials for the project. 

This will be the 23rd project to date by the charity, and project lead Kent Taylor said that is another great example of how the construction industry looks after its own.

“The Band of Builders community never ceases to amaze with its ability to rally round and volunteer on projects for fellow tradespeople and their families, working on renovation or repair projects that make a real difference to their lives,” said Kent.

Tess hit the headlines last summer after telling reporters that if it wasn’t for her dog Lola jumping on her stomach and smelling her breath, her low-grade serous carcinoma (LGSC), a rare form of ovarian cancer, may have gone undetected for longer.

The 41-year-old – who has retrained as a hairdresser – said her Chihuahua kept smelling Tess’s breath and then finally jumped on her abdomen. Tess doubled up in pain and went to see her GP, who referred her straightaway to A&E. She was diagnosed with stage 3 LGSC, which although is less aggressive, can be poorly chemo-responsive in advanced stages.

In March last year, Tess underwent a 12-hour operation to have a full hysterectomy and during the surgery, it was evident that cancer had spread to Tess’s bowel.

Thankfully, recent tests have confirmed that the surgery and subsequent chemotherapy have been successful – but it’s still a long road back to health for Tess, who says that she has Lola to thank for saving her life.

“For about ten days in the run-up to Christmas in 2020, Lola just wouldn’t leave me alone and kept smelling my breath at every opportunity,” said Tess. “I’m convinced she was trying to tell me something, but it was only when she jumped on my tummy that I realised something was wrong.

“I owe my life to Lola because she clearly knew something was wrong, and because of her I was able to seek medical help sooner.”

During chemotherapy, Tess lost all her hair and all her confidence drained away, so family friends Chris and Meg Bennett started crowdfunding to buy her a wig made from real hair. The Bennetts also told the Robisons about the support provided by BoB and after contacting the charity, plans were put in place to help Tess, Paul and Lola.

For more information or to offer support of any kind, please email info@bandofbuilders.org.