THOUSANDS of women and girls of all ages across Sussex will once again be doing their bit to help fight cancer this year. Siobhan Ryan reports.
MOST people have been affected by cancer at some point in their lives.
They have either battled against the disease themselves or have a loved one, friend or colleague at work who has been diagnosed or lost their life.
The disease can affect people at any age and researchers are constantly battling to find ways to discover the causes of and treatments for cancer.
The annual series of Cancer Research UK Race For Life events are a chance for people to gather together and raise money for the charity’s vital work.
It also gives them a chance to get together in memory of someone they have lost or to celebrate their own or someone else’s recovery.
There are many reasons why women and girls sign up to take part, with many coming back year after year.
These are difficult financial times but every single penny raised is vital and the charity is hoping to raise up to £1 million from the county’s races this summer.
Around 8,700 patients in Sussex are told that they have cancer each year and survival rates have been improving significantly for some types of the disease.
Women with breast cancer now have a 78% chance of surviving compared to only 40% 40 years ago, while ten-year survival for men with testicular cancer has jumped from 69% to 98%.
However just 1% of pancreatic cancer patients and 5% of lung cancer patients diagnosed today are expected to live for another ten years.
A spokeswoman for Cancer Research UK in the South East said: “Race for Life is not competitive and it’s not about being fit or fast.
“It’s about thousands of women coming together to show cancer who’s boss.
“Participants may be walking or running but what’s inescapable is the power and strength that comes from thousands of women joining together to confront cancer.”
Lennon imagines raising £2,000
LENNON Silcock, seven, has been given permission to take part in Race for Life in Brighton, despite being a boy in the normally women-only event.
The seven-year-old was determined to join his mum Beccy Fellingham and raise as much money for Cancer Research UK as he can.
The youngster, from Newhaven, has already made an impressive £1,200 after justgiving and Facebook pages were set up and people helped raise awareness of what he was doing.
Lennon wanted to get involved after his nan, Trisha Stubbings, was diagnosed with cancer for the second time.
After checking with race organisers that it was fine for Lennon to take part, Ms Fellingham, 31, signed him up.
Lennon has a special T-shirt with a picture of himself and his “nana” to wear for the race.
Ms Fellingham said: “It was all his idea. I'd done Race for Life before and he decided he wanted to do it as well.
“He has been doing really well. He has made cakes and sold them to raise money and when he lost his tooth he said he would add his money from the tooth fairy to the total.
“He is determined to raise £2,000. I am very proud of him, and his nana is also aiming to be there on the day.”
To support Lennon, visit www.justgiving.com/lennon silcock.
Marie’s making great memories
MARIE South, 48, who is battling terminal skin cancer, is also backing Race for Life but is taking on a slightly tougher challenge.
The 48-year-old, from Saltdean, is doing one of Race For Life’s new Pretty Muddy 5km obstacle courses in Maidstone.
Mrs South is devoting the time she has left to raising funds for the charity and “making great memories”.
She said: “Right now I feel fit and well and I’m still very active so I want to get up on stage and inspire women to sign up for the Race for Life and hopefully have some fun at the same time.”
Mrs South, who is married to Mike and has a 19-year old son Ben, was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma in January 2011 after having a mole removed.
She said: “When I was told it was a malignant melanoma I didn’t realise how serious it was.
“I thought the fact the mole was removed and I just had to have three monthly checks meant I’d be fine.”
However, nine months later, the cancer had spread to Marie’s lymph nodes and by November 2012 it had moved to her liver.
Further treatment, including chemotherapy tablets, kept the cancer at bay for eight months but it returned in August last year.
Mrs South said: “Now I know it’s just a waiting game really. So I’ve decided to concentrate on keeping as fit as possible and doing something really worthwhile by taking part in charity events.
“Health-wise I am in pain and on morphine but I’m happy and living my life to the absolute maximum and making great memories for me and my family.”
Celebrating dad’s life
WHEN Lorraine Duffy was told that her father had an inoperable cancerous tumour, she was devastated.
And just 24 hours after his diagnosis, her father, Michael Daly, 82, lost his battle with the disease.
Mrs Duffy, 51, from Polegate, said: “He was diagnosed on January 20 of this year and he died on the 21st. As a family we can’t quite take it in. We’re all still reeling from the shock.
“Dad had only been taken ill just before Christmas and not for a minute did we think it would be cancer. The first time we heard the word tumour was the day before his death.
“It all happened so suddenly that we only discovered the type of cancer he had – pancreatic – when it was written on his death certificate.”
Now Mrs Duffy and five other members of her family have signed up to take part in the Cancer Research UK Race for Life at Eastbourne on June 22 to celebrate her father’s life and to honour all those still battling the disease.
She said: “I took part in the Horsham Race for Life event last year and saw it as a bit of a fun day out because cancer had never affected our family before.
“This year will be very different. Now I know just how cruel and shocking this disease can be and that every penny counts towards life-saving research.
“Dad was a wonderful man. He’s left a huge hole in our family but we’re determined to celebrate his life and honour him at Race for Life.”
Diagnosis a huge shock for Emily
UCKFIELD art student Emily Parker was diagnosed with a rare cancer during her university studies.
The 21-year-old, of Horney Common, was told she had acute promyelocytic leukaemia in June last year after suffering a sore throat and fever.
Doctors initially thought she had tonsillitis but when Ms Parker's condition failed to improve, her mum Alison insisted she went back to her GP.
He immediately referred her to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton where the diagnosis was made.
Ms Parker said: “It was the biggest shock of my life. I was hysterical, I just couldn’t stop crying.
“Having cancer hadn’t even crossed my mind. I’d lost my grandad to the disease in 2006 and then a year later my granny, so I just associated it with death. I thought ‘this just can’t be happening. I never, ever thought it would be something as serious as cancer.”
Ms Parker, who was studying Fine Art at Aberystwyth University, had to defer her studies for a year but is now well enough to take part in Race for Life.
Ms Parker is a triplet alongside siblings Ben and Tom. She also has a younger brother Charlie, 17, and sister Harriet, 11.
Ms Parker spent five months in and out of hospital having intensive chemotherapy treatment. She also volunteered to go on a clinical trial called AML 17 and in October 2013 she was told that the treatment had worked and she was free of cancer. However she still has to be monitored closely in case the cancer returns.
Ms Parker, who goes back to university in September, said: “Those months during treatment were extremely tough. I lost my hair, which was awful and I just didn’t know what the outcome of my treatment would be. It was scary. So when they told me in October that I was OK, it was an incredible relief.
“I want to do something to raise money to fund research and hopefully find new ways of treating less treatable cancers for those who really need it. I was so lucky as my cancer was so responsive to treatment. But I know there are so many people who aren’t as fortunate as me with their diagnosis.”
Running to honour Nick’s memory
TWO brave Littlehampton sisters are taking on the Race for Life challenge after losing their dad to the disease.
Lily and Poppy Souter, aged seven and three, and mum Vicky, 32, are doing the Worthing race on June 22.
The girls lost their dad Nick to lung cancer in December 2013, just weeks before his 40th birthday.
Mrs Souter said: “Cancer has robbed us of a lovely husband and father to the girls.
“Nick had gruelling treatment and fought every way possible so that he could spend as much time with me and the girls as possible and create lovely memories for us all.
“Taking part in Race for Life is my way of honouring his memory and of doing what I can to help prevent other families being torn apart by this horrible disease.”
Mr Souter, who worked for a pharmaceutical company, had been fit and well until 2012 when he developed a persistent cough and pains in his neck and throat.
X-rays revealed a shadow on Mr Souter’s lung and after undergoing further tests, including a CT scan, the couple were given the devastating news that he had stage three lung cancer.
Mrs Souter said: “We were told the worst case scenario would be a prognosis of six to nine months and the best, one to two years.
“I just broke down in the doctor’s room. Nick ended up supporting me, I felt so selfish as it was him that had the diagnosis but I was the one completely distraught.”
Mr Souter began a back to back course of intense chemotherapy and radiotherapy which left him so ill that at one point his lung collapsed. However he rallied and completed his treatment in July 2013.
Family and friends clubbed together to pay for the Souters to go on holiday to Disneyland Paris.
When they returned Mr Souter’s condition deteriorated and he eventually passed away at home surrounded by his loved ones.
Mrs Souter said: “Obviously everything is still so raw, but we talk about Nick all the time.
“It’s heartbreaking to know that he’ll never see them grow up and mark all the usual milestones in their lives. It really is awful watching a loved one going through cancer. You just feel so helpless. That’s why we’ll do anything we can to boot it out forever.”
Horsham, June 8, 5k and 10k Hastings, June 15, 5k and 10k Crawley, June 18, 5k Eastbourne, June 22, 5k Worthing, June 22, 5k Brighton, July 5, 10k Brighton, July 6, 5k To enter Race for Life’s 5k or 10k events visit www.raceforlife.org or call 0845 600 6050.