When one of my closest friends, Rachel, was diagnosed with breast cancer just before Christmas a few years ago, I was speechless and didn't know what I could possibly do to make her feel better.
The horrible news was made worse by the fact that her mum had died of breast cancer when she was only 13-years-old. It seemed really unfair when Rachel found out she too had cancer after seeing its devastating effects first-hand when she was a teen.
Rachel's cancer was already stage three when it was diagnosed, so it was quite advanced and she needed surgery and chemotherapy immediately, making the news even more of a shock to those of us who know and love her - and believe me, there's a lot of us!
We have a big group of girls that get together regularly - whether it's for a drink in the local or a cuppa in the kitchen. We're all mums and met Rachel at our childrens' school - she's a teaching assistant there and we hit it off straight away. It didn't take long for the whole friendship group to grow - everyone adores her!
The ten of us desperately wanted to do something to get behind her and show her that although we couldn't truly empathise with what she was going through having not experienced cancer personally, she had the support of her closest female friends and we were prepared to give up on some of the things we love - including the occasional tipple - to show this.
After hearing about Cancer Research UK's alcohol-free challenge, Dryathlon, we decided to kick the booze for a month and raise as much money as we possibly could to fund research and treatments that Rachel and many others benefit from. That January, 'Sober Sisters' was born and, determined to lift Rachel's spirits, we put down our own (as well as the wine and beer) for 31 long days.
It wasn't easy - we regularly catch up over a glass of wine but we knew we had the best chance of sticking to it if we did it together. And we did. For the whole of January the bar bill didn't stray from the soft drinks. The toughest was undoubtedly a Friday evening after a long week at work, but if Rachel could fight cancer we sure as hell could fight the urge for alcohol!
We found substitutes for drinking, things like fizzy water in a nice wine glass - it's easier to pretend you're still treating yourself that way. At one point my husband even handed me a cold Stella and asked me to hold it for him for a minute - I couldn't believe he could be so insensitive!
We all got through the month without cracking and raised more than £1000 for Cancer Research UK. Thankfully Rachel's treatment has been successful and two years on from her original diagnosis, she's recovering well.
Doing Dryathlon was difficult - but definitely worth it and the struggle of four weeks off the booze is nothing compared to what cancer patients go through every day. This January, we're bulk buying the sparkling again as 'Sober Sisters' is making a comeback and we're determined to raise even more funds for our wonderful best friend and for Cancer Research UK's life-saving work.
Whether you've been affected by cancer yourself, know someone who has gone or is going through it, or just want to do your body some good - whilst doing a good deed too - I'd urge you to put down the pint glasses and get on board for a brilliant cause!
To support the Sober Sisters and their challenge this January, visit their JustGiving page..
For more information about Dryathlon visit dryathlon.org.