Val Armstrong

The Chairman and committee are delighted to announce the winner of The Cumbria Woman of the Year 2011.

This incredible woman is an enthusiastic advocate for the county. She is a well known voice for the county, singing its praises at every opportunity, who has turned her professional talents into a personal crusade.

In fighting her own adversity, she has given comfort and inspiration to countless other women and their families and empowered them to cope. Using honesty and humour, she has reassured and encouraged other women.

Over the years, she has been there for others. Her warmth and calm professionalism is greatly respected by the team she works with and she is a tower of strength, who can be relied on in any crisis. But it is in the last 12 months, that she has bared her soul in an extraordinary way that makes her today such a worthy winner.

In 2010 she was diagnosed – for the second time – with breast cancer. This time, she decided to go public, telling her listeners about her battles. She also wrote an online blog. A familiar voice on BBC Radio Cumbria, she is a friend to many who have never met her. She never shows self pity, just a genuine desire to help others. Anyone who saw the footage on the online blog she made, of her hair being cut off is unlikely to forget it. She used a razor to make the first cut herself, knowing it was too hard for her own hairdresser to begin.

Even when recovering from her second mastectomy last spring she joined a 650 mile, all female, motorbike ride, the 2011 Breast Way Round, to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Recently she has become the face for the North of England Cancer Network’s Be Clear on Cancer campaign to encourage early diagnosis and save lives.

She is also a high profile member of Carlisle Breast Care Support Group and has helped to launch the Information Service for Macmillan Cancer Support.

She has also become a tireless fund-raiser. Tomorrow night, for instance, she will be at The Sands Centre in Carlisle to launch a charity week with Carlisle Musical Society and Staged Right.

This lady is much respected and liked by her work colleagues who have rallied round her. Her earthy and compassionate approach to life makes her popular with all those who know her. They describe her as “incredibly kind and thoughtful, always the friend you want with you in a crisis and truly inspiring.”

However, she is well aware that she is just one of many to have to deal with breast cancer. What makes her so special is the fact that she has used her high profile to help others and that she has done so with practicality and an unflagging cheerfulness.

She has shown that when you turn outwards and give to others it is easier to cope with your own troubles. She is still fighting her way back to fitness after gruelling rounds of chemotherapy. Certainly her listeners are looking forward to the day she returns to work. This lady’s warmth and wit have given succour to others over the years. In fact, she was nominated as Cumbria Woman of the Year 10 years ago as a great advocate of all things Cumbrian.

She lives in Carlisle surrounded by friends and family. Her mum Olive is a former nurse who has been a great support to her daughter over the last few years.

Our winner never misses an opportunity to fight for Cumbria and her voice was a comfort to many during foot and mouth and the floods.

She is always singing the praises of the county and even took over Wembley Way when Carlisle played there in 2009. London didn’t know what had hit it.

Her role at Radio Cumbria has become a way of life. She talks at WIs and business network groups. She describes her voice as her weapon. When she was in hospital, her microphone never left her side. She says that as long as she had her microphone, she was never alone. This lady joined the BBC for a six month work experience stint when she was 17. She earned £25 a week along with her bus fare.

Thirty years on, she is one of the most popular people in the county with a huge audience of fans who are inspired by her pluckiness, her determination and ability to give a great roar of laughter no matter what life throws at her.

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