Barby Keel breast cancer

Barby Keel is one of a kind.

The fiesty 73 year old refused breast cancer surgery because she was determined not to miss her open day.

She promised the doctor she would check in for her operation first thing on Monday morning. She stayed one night in before coming home on Tuesday afternoon to rest and recover.

Barby told the Observer: "They wanted me to go in last week but I wanted to do the open day.

"The doctor started off saying I had to go in last Wednesday...I said No, I play darts on Wednesday night! He thought I was joking...then he laughed.

"I said - joking aside, unless it is really dangerous I can't come in until after my open day."

Barby has been in remission from breast cancer for five years.

On Sunday she fought back the tears as she admitted she had promised her "girls" to sit down all day and not do her traditional walkabout - Barby usually pushes around a pramful of cash and change to help the volunteers who run the stalls.

"I made a pact with the girls. I swore on my dog's life if I did the open day I would sit I am sitting down, and hating every minute of it."

It's been a long time since Barby arrived in Freezeland Lane - staying first in a shed and then living in a caravan for 20 years so she could rescue and protect her animals and birds.

The Barby Keel animal sanctuary recently won a Bexhill Achievers award for charity of the year, and Barby herself is to receive a lifetime achievement award presented by the International Fund for Animal Welfare at a ceremony at the House Of Lords.

Thinking ahead to her surgery she said: "People keep saying I'm so brave. I am not brave...but what do you do? You either get on with it or you roll across the floor and give up. And there's no way I'll do that."

On Wednesday she was waiting to hear the results of her biopsy and was at home being treated "like a princess", in touch with her team via walkie-talkie.

Even so she took time to thank everyone who made the trip out for her open day.

"It was so cold on Sunday and the weather was so bad. And yet they still supported us, and my old motley crew are such a cracking lot. I am being treated like a princess - I am being spoiled with flowers and cards. They are lovely. It makes all the difference...I never say it, but there are times when I feel really yuck."