When Dawn was diagnosed with breast cancer in March last year, she went on walks to maintain her physical and mental health. She tells us how this eventually became a fundraiser, and shares her insight for anyone else who wants to raise money.
I’ve been involved in fundraising before
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2020, just before lockdown happened. I was off for two months and then working from home, so I started to occupy my time by going out for walks.
I've always done a charity walk once a year, so it’s something I’m used to doing anyway. I’ve done some for Macmillan and was due to do a 26-mile walk for Parkinson’s, but that got delayed because of COVID-19. My dad has Parkinson’s, so we do it to raise money and awareness of what he’s going through.
I posted about my walking on social media and a friend messaged saying she’d like to join in. This was followed by a message from another friend, and then another, so it became more of a social activity.
Then, I had an idea.
It’s my birthday in November and, because of lockdown, nobody could do anything to celebrate. I didn’t really need anything, either, so I thought I’d do a fundraising walk for Breast Cancer Now.
I felt so much love and support from people
We had to be careful about not breaking the COVID-19 rules, so we spread out into groups of six and said that everyone could do the walk at their own pace.
My walking partner and I met the first crew at 7.30am. We wore pink leggings and our Breast Cancer Now shirts that the charity kindly sent, and we had a pink balloon each. We were essentially the markers for the start point.
I did a competition for the person wearing the most pink, one of my daughter’s friends made a delicious lemon cake, and other people brought along flapjacks. We passed out tea and some sneaky prosecco, so everyone got a little reward at the end.
I’m not normally one for crying, but at the end of my event I was quite tearful – I felt really emotional. I felt so much love from everyone coming together!
It also meant a lot to have my daughter with me, as I know she’d been a bit scared when I was first diagnosed.
Breast Cancer Now were on hand to help
I was introduced to Breast Cancer Now by a close friend of mine, Sharan, who has also been through breast cancer. She was my go-to person when I was first diagnosed, and she directed me towards the charity because she’d found it useful when she needed support.
While I was planning the event, I exchanged some emails back and forth with someone at Breast Cancer Now. Having that rapport and feeling that support was lovely, and I felt like I could ask them for anything I needed.
I knew that the money I’d raise wouldn’t just go towards science and research, but also towards having the Helpline for people to call or the website to provide information. They also need money for events like The Show, which I’m happy to fundraise for because I know it raises so much awareness and shows people they can be supported during and after a life-changing experience.
It was particularly important to me to support Breast Cancer Now last year, as I knew a lot of the big events couldn’t go ahead due to COVID-19.
There is no shame in asking for sponsorship
When it comes to fundraising, I think it helps that I don’t feel any shame in asking for sponsorship. I just tell my story and ask for support, but I don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t donate. Having a big network of friends and family definitely helps, but you’ve still got to go out there and blow your own trumpet a bit!
Social media is brilliant for that. I set up a JustGiving page where I could tell my story and post updates, which was a great way to keep the momentum going. People were actually donating while the walk was going on because so many of those involved had posted about it on Facebook.
I also got my work to share the link on their intranet, and they match donations up to £250 so I got a good boost from that!
Lockdown probably helped with my fundraising as people needed an excuse to get out. We hadn’t really been able to do much until that point, and I think everyone wanted to do something where they could see their friends.
Plus, people knew I was doing these little walks to get my fitness back up after surgery, and they wanted to support me in doing that.
Raising awareness is also important
The C-word scares people, so when you tell people that you have cancer, they tend to be a bit gobsmacked and scared for you. But I was very lucky: it got detected early, I didn’t need any chemotherapy, and now I’m fine.
So, as well as raising money, I now use this experience as a stepping-stone for making my friends check their breasts. I share posts on Instagram and post once a week about how to check yourself.
I enjoy fundraising in a slightly selfish way, too – it gets me out of the house, gives me achievable goals to complete. I also think it’s important to show other people the importance of getting out and being healthy.
One in two people get cancer, so the chances are that someone who sees or gets involved with my fundraising will be diagnosed at some point. I think it could be helpful to be a role model for those people, to show there is a way to get through the experience.
We're so grateful to Dawn for all her fundraising efforts, and to everyone who joined in to support her. If you'd like to do your own fundraising this Autumn, we'd love to have you on board! Sign up for your free fundraising pack to get started.