“WHEN people ask: ‘Has cancer changed you?’ I say: ‘Yes. I think it’s changed me for the better’.”

It’s not something you’d expect someone with stage 4 skin cancer to say. But Jacqui Drake is extraordinarily positive in dealing with terminal illness, and says it has spurred her on to embrace life and help others.

“People are frightened to talk about cancer,” says Jacqui, of Apperley Bridge. “When I’m at hospital I find that other cancer patients open up to me, yet they find it difficult to talk to their closest relatives. Having cancer has given me empathy, and has made me stand up for things I believe in.

“I am terminally ill with stage 4 malignant melanoma, but I’m living every single day with absolute positivity. I know firsthand how difficult it is to be diagnosed and to talk about this terrible disease. I remember driving all the way back from hospital knowing I had to break the news to my parents that I was going to have a lung removed. That was my lowest point, but I knew it was something we had to talk about.”

Now Jacqui has “bared all”- posing naked to show that cancer doesn’t have to define who you are. “This image is me baring my soul so I can help other people, both patients and their loved ones,” says Jacqui. “I have cancer, but I’m not hiding away. Life is a gift - that’s something we don’t say enough. We’re too busy taking life for granted.”

Jacqui, 55, did the nude photo-shoot as part of her campaign to raise £1million for the Bexley Wing at St James’s Hospital in Leeds, where she has treatment. Determined to give something back, she launched ‘Jacqui’s Million’, which has caught the imagination of people across the district. Says Jacqui: “I’ve had so much support, people have done all sorts of things - jumping out of ‘planes, doing the Great North Run, putting together a Christmas “carol-o-thon”. Traders at St James's Market in Bradford raised £15,000 from a traders' ball last year.

“My goal is to raise £1 million for the continued care of cancer patients at the Bexley Wing where, over the last 10 years, I’ve been treated and cared for by the most amazing doctors, nurses, surgeons and oncologists.”

This week is Sun Awareness Week, highlighting the dangers of over-exposure to the sun and promoting safe behaviour. According to the British Association Of Dermatologists, 80per cent people fail to apply sunscreen before going out in the sun, and 70 per cent fail to re-apply sunscreen every two hours, as recommended. Jacqui aims to raise awareness of skin cancer prevention, and plans to give talks in schools.

An award-winning dance teacher and choreographer, Jacqui has always been fit. She's the principal of Debut Academy in Shipley, has choreographed for and performed with many local dramatic societies, and worked alongside artists such as Mark Owen from Take That, McFly and Bradford’s Gareth Gates.

But in 1991, a small mole on her leg changed everything. Jacqui had it checked and was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. She had an operation to remove it, but nearly 18 years later a secondary cancer was found. “I found a lump in the same place. I was told it had returned and was referred to St James’s Hospital to have the lump removed. It was the size of a golf ball,” she says.

Jacqui ended up having three operations, but the following year a scan detected a lump was on her other leg. “The cancer had travelled in my blood and deposited tumours in my lungs,” she says. “I was put on tablet-based chemotherapy, which kept it back for two years, but the tumour in my right lung went on to grow and I was told I had to have the whole lung taken out.”

Jacqui’s lung was removed in February, 2015 and she went chemotherapy later that year. She managed to choreograph a Bradford Catholic Players’ show while undergoing the treatment, but when it invaded her bowel she found herself back in hospital. “I got colitis, which is the worst side effect of chemo,” recalls Jacqui. “I faced having my bowel out if the drugs didn’t work. Thankfully, they did.”

Early in 2016, Jacqui was diagnosed with pneumocystis, a rare form of pneumonia. Her immune system was so low her life was at risk. “I came out of hospital knowing I’d nearly lost my life. The care I had there, and have continued to have, has been tremendous. I can’t thank the doctors, nurses and everyone else at Jimmy’s enough,” says Jacqui.

Despite ongoing hospital visits, Jacqui has thrown herself into fundraising. Last year she released a recipe book which sold out, and she’s seeking a sponsor to print some more. “People donated a recipe for £10 in memory of a loved one. We had more than 90 recipes,” says Jacqui. “I’d love supermarkets to take the books on.”

Now she has a range of scented ‘Positivity candles’. “Every time I go to Jimmy’s for my results there’s a candle lit at my parents’ house. People find candles very calming and reassuring,” says Jacqui. “These are essential oil candles, with my positivity message on the front and the justgiving details and logo on the back, along with the name of the sponsor, Delifresh Ltd in Bradford.”

Jacqui is also organising a show, following the success of a cabaret event she produced last year, which raised £9,000. Positive Vibes 2, at City Varieties in Leeds on Saturday, June 30, will feature young dancers from Debut and other local performers. “My energy levels aren’t what they were but I still love to dance, and I find being around dancers very uplifting,” says Jacqui. “When I first started fundraising I didn’t know what to do. Now I’m buzzing with ideas. I’d love to hold a Jacqui’s Millions Ball.

“We’ve raised £81,500 so far. My aim is to provide things for the Bexley Wing that the NHS budget doesn’t include - the details that make it homely and comfortable. They’re what keep it from looking clinical and stark - things like soft furnishings and pictures on the wall, and boxes of overnight items for people staying the night with a patient.”

She adds: “We can show people who become ‘one of Jacqui’s Millions’ how the money they’ve raised and donated is being spent. If I can reach out to a million people and they all give just £1, the job would be done.””

Jacqui’s fundraising venture has inspired other cancer patients and their families. “People come up to me and tell me about their experiences. Sometimes it’s about their own cancer, sometimes it’s about a relative or friend. Listening to someone talking about their wife or child is very humbling,” says Jacqui. “They say, ‘You’ve given me hope’.

“I live with cancer, but I’m not giving up. I’m realistic about what I can and can’t do, but I’m grateful for each day. That gives me positivity.”

* To make a donation visit justgiving.com/jacquismillion or text JACQ92£1 to 70070.