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WALKING TO "C" OFF CANCER

16-07-2007

Lynn Hawthorne joined the hardy band of walkers in Sutton Park yesterday, raising cash for, and awareness of, female cancer victims.

Torrential rain, sodden turf and river-like paths didn’t daunt the hardy hundreds who turned out to support the Cancer Research Race for Life, held for the fifth consecutive year in Sutton Park.

Part of national sequence of events, the Race for Life is an all-women event to raise awareness of female-related cancers and to raise much-needed funds for the charity.

Although the organisation on the day was a little chaotic at times (a woman on stage we could hardly see pointing in the direction she wanted us to assemble with the instruction, “Go to the pink flag!” when there was a sea of pink!), it was the weather that was the main culprit.

Volume of traffic trying to get in to the park delayed the start by over 15 minutes and the squelchy mud bath, somewhat reminiscent of Glastonbury, slowed down the exodus trying to leave at the end of the event.

But were we downhearted? Not a bit! My group - staff from my primary school - even picnicked on a tarpaulin and when a downpour sent the sandwiches soggy and dampened the pork pies, we shrieked with laughter under umbrellas, prompting a steward to go away shaking his head and smiling that ‘only the British would do such a thing!’

It’s the first time I’ve ever walked this 5km (that’s roughly 3 miles for those of us who like our measurements in old money!) trail and I have to say it was a privilege.

It was an interesting mixture of ladies: all ages, all shapes and sizes and levels of fitness. The diehards ran or jogged and the rest of us walked, again at a variety of paces, and chatted as we went.

I had been warned that it could be emotional, because each entrant wore a large label that bore the names of those for whom they were participating.

In some cases there were lists of family members and friends, including three death dates in five years, I saw.

There were photographs, too, of vibrant women who are no longer with us with comments like “We miss your sparkle” and “Miss you loads.”

I’d tried not to read them at first, but realised that that was part of the point of this event, to remember. It would have been rude not to read these dedications, not to acknowledge the lives lived and the battles fought and the parts played by the people left behind.

But it wasn’t all sadness. There were people there who have beaten cancer or who are well on the way to recovery.

One of my friends is looking really well, all thanks to the drug Herceptin and which she is lucky enough to receive. But we all know that it’s a postcode lottery whether or not you get this particular medication and government and health authorities attempt to persuade us that the cost of such treatment is prohibitive.

It’s not the cost that is prohibitive, but the priorities of the bodies which make decisions on our behalf. Such arguments are simply not acceptable when it’s lives at stake. We must prioritise and must press our MP’s and convince them that it is the lives of the British people that appoint them which are worth saving.

So it was a good day out for a good cause. It was great to be in the company of between 2000 and 4000 women (estimates varied), but a huge thank-you must go to the partners, husbands, brothers, uncles and nephews who lined the route to cheer us on, who organised the food and hot drinks at the end and who hung onto kids, dogs and handbags while we were away.

We know that it affects you, too.

If you get the opportunity to get involved in one of these runs/walks, do sign up. It’s good fun, it’s healthy and it raises a huge amount of money for charity.

We all know someone who has fallen victim to this disease and this is just one of the ways in which we can all help. So, what are you waiting for? Dust off those trainers and get into practice!

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