In April 2013, my sister Geraldine got the devastating news that she had secondary breast cancer, just months after being told she had recovered from a long and painful battle with the disease which had begun some six years earlier.
It's hard to put into words how I felt. The pain and anger were soon joined by a sense of helplessness, a desperate feeling that I was powerless to do anything tangible to help my own sister face this horrible thing. Any words seemed hollow, no matter how well intended they were.
As I tried to make sense of it all, I came to realise that actually, there was something I could do. Maybe not directly (it's not like I could donate an organ or anything), but I thought of my own two daughters and Geraldine's two lovely girls, and how I could do something that might just contribute to a future where breast cancer is something they don't have to fear.
So I signed up for the Brighton Marathon almost a year in advance, and embarked on a journey of self-discovery, pain, blisters and ultimately an enormous sense of pride and achievement (and a few tears) as I crossed the finish line on that Sunday last April, to be greeted by my closest family and friends, Geraldine among them.
I chose to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. From day one they offered the most amazing support, not only in terms of my fundraising efforts, but also emotionally. They fully understood my motivation, and everyone I spoke to had real empathy and compassion. I developed a very close affinity with them that I know will endure for many years to come.
Fundraising isn't easy these days. The training, work and other pressures of modern life make it a tough proposition that can really get you down if it's not going well.
So I was amazed when after less than three months I crashed through my initial £2,000 target in July, with generous donations from friends and family boosted by online auctions of sporting and music memorabilia which I had managed to raise from various football clubs and bands. I was astonished by the response, and also by hearing about how many friends had been affected by some form of cancer. This proved a real eye-opener to me, realising the impact cancer has on so many lives, and spurred me on, both in terms of getting myself in the best possible shape as well as raising as much as I could for the charity.
By December I had passed my revised total of £3,000, and raised it to £5,000 (which quite honestly seemed a step too far), and continued to bombard everyone I knew via all forms of social media (I'm amazed I've got any Facebook friends left!). A week before the race I passed the magic £5K, and fittingly it was Geraldine's donation that got me there. I'd gone way further than I ever imagined possible, and could focus on the race in the knowledge I'd done all I could. My final total was over £6,000, a drop in the ocean perhaps in terms of what's needed to fund the necessary research, but something I'm very proud of nonetheless.
But I can't stop there. Geraldine's fight goes on, and quite frankly I'm amazed by the courage and grace with which she handles the ups and downs that life with secondary breast cancer brings. I'm immensely proud of her, and I have to continue doing all I can to help her and thousands of women like her across the UK.
In a year's time I plan to take on a triathlon, and again I'll be combining the scary training regime with fundraising for Breast Cancer Campaign. If I can get halfway to the total I raised last time I'll be really happy. If I've got any friends left I'll be happier still.Suggest a correction