Celebrating one of Central YMCA's incredible women: Claire Johnson

27 March 2024

As Women’s History Month comes to an end, we want to take this opportunity to showcase one of the inspirational women who we are proud to have as part of the Central YMCA team. Claire Johnson has been with Central YMCA since 2014, delivering courses in Business Administration, Customer Service, and Team Leading and Supervising in Eastbourne. 

Claire’s world was flipped upside down on 28 September 2022 when she was told five little words no one ever wants to hear, “Unfortunately, you have breast cancer.”  

Before her diagnosis, Claire hadn’t noticed any warning signs. She went to the doctor for her routine mammogram, where they discovered abnormalities. After some testing, it was confirmed as stage 2 grade 2 breast cancer. 

Her mind immediately became overwhelmed with the seemingly endless piles of paperwork, doctor’s appointments, and trying to come to terms with everything. Within three weeks, Claire had a double lumpectomy and got scheduled in for radiotherapy at Charing Cross Hospital.  

But where many people would shut down and withdraw into themself, Claire jumped into action. She wanted to do everything possible to turn this negative circumstance into a positive.


Once she had recovered from her round of intensive radiotherapy, Claire teamed up with Emily Hurd, a web designer she met at a networking event in Eastbourne. When Claire told her about an idea of starting a website to raise awareness of breast cancer, Emily was immediately on board – the cause is also close to her as her mother lost her best friend to breast cancer. 

Together, Claire and Emily created the website Breast Friends Forever Community, which went live on 28 September 2023 – a significant date as it was the one-year anniversary of Claire’s diagnosis. The website was designed to be an online community to share the stories of women with breast cancer, diagrams and tips on how to do a self-check, a memorial page for women who have lost their battle with breast cancer, and further readings for people who have been diagnosed. They have also recently connected with a men’s group to help raise awareness that men can develop breast cancer too. 

A major part of Breast Friends Forever is the fundraising they do for Macmillan Cancer Support, Breast Cancer Now, and the St. Wilfred’s Hospice in Eastbourne. Since launching about six months ago, they have already hosted several successful fundraising events, including their launch party, a danceathon, and pizza and quiz night, and they have a flower pressing workshop and a fashion show scheduled for this spring. Through their fundraising, Claire and Emily raised £2050 in 2023 and have raised £507 (so far!) in 2024. 


You may see upcoming events on the Breast Friends Forever website or click here to make a direct donation to Macmillan Cancer Support, Breast Cancer Now, and St. Wilfred’s Hospice. 

Claire has continued to stay optimistic through her journey with breast cancer, saying that “even on the worst of days, you can find positives.” She is grateful for the supportive community she has around her and has learned just how important it is to prioritise your physical and mental wellbeing. She wants to share a special shoutout to her line manager at Central YMCA, Dianne Darvell, who went above and beyond in offering support. She did not hesitate to take on additional work to ensure Claire had all the time she needed to focus on her treatment. 

Alongside her work with Breast Friends Forever, Claire has also begun a Level 2 course in Cancer Support. Once she completes the course, she will be fully qualified to support people through their journeys with all forms of cancer. 

Claire truly represents our values, and we are so proud and happy to have her as part of the Central YMCA family. We are very glad that she is now on the road to remission. 

If you would like to read more about Claire’s journey, learn more about breast cancer, or hear about upcoming fundraising events, head over to the Breast Friends Forever website



Further resources: 

Check your breasts 

Glossary of medical terms related to cancer 

Reading recommendations 

Support networks 

Men’s Virtual Meet-Up