Eleanor and her mum, Zoe, have been supporting Breast Cancer Now since Zoe’s treatment for breast cancer over ten years ago. Eleanor shares her mum’s story and tells us why they walk for breast cancer research every year.

Monday 13 March 2017      Community blog

Eleanor's sister, Clare, and her mum, Zoe, celebrating Clare's success with the Leeds World Triathlon in 2016

My Mum, Zoe, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997. She was working at Roehampton University training teachers and teaching assistants. As she had just turned 50, she had been sent a letter about having a routine breast check but thought nothing about it. When she went into the hospital the machine was broken so they had to delay the appointment. A month later she went again and a serious lump was discovered. It turned out that this broken machine may have saved her life – if she’d had that original appointment it would have been too early to notice anything unusual.

Surgery and treatment

Within six weeks my mum had surgery while her husband George, my sister Clare and I waited nervously outside. The operation went well and despite the suggestions from well-meaning friends to drink only carrot juice and other antioxidants, we celebrated Mum’s safe recovery by drawing the curtains round the hospital bed and popping champagne – making sure to cough loudly to mask the sound and avoid getting a telling off from the nurses!

This was just the beginning of Mum’s treatment, as she had to have a second operation and radiotherapy. My wonderful mum kept herself positive throughout by creating a name for the radiotherapy machine and greeting it like an old friend on every visit. She met the hospital staff with a determined smile at every appointment.

Starting our fundraising journey

Thankfully, we received the news that she was in remission. This experience inspired her to raise money to help others who face the same predicament, in the hope that they will have as much of a chance of recovery as possible. As this was before the merger of Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer Campaign to make Breast Cancer Now, Mum read about the Breakthrough Crocus Walk and set about organising one herself.

Just keep walking

Starting at Roehampton University and walking round Richmond Park, Mum was joined by six colleagues and a few friends and family in April. Although we didn’t even see a crocus (as they had all gone by then!) the walk was a success and has grown into a regular event and flourished beyond all of our expectations. It now takes place at Cedars Health and Leisure Club in Richmond.

Each year more and more people are getting involved and we now end the walk with delicious cakes, thanks to Mum’s friend, Jenny, and her partner, Malcolm. My mum’s granddaughter Ruby first completed the walk in her pushchair and now aged eight, has joined in on foot!

My mum has since hosted many events, including an open garden event with an auction of donated goods. As well as the events, Mum’s husband George, is a carpenter and has made some beautiful wooden items, from dolls houses to toothpaste holders, to sell at local craft fairs and community events.

Raising awareness

Amazingly we’ve found that it’s not just the raising of funds that has grown in our community, it’s the awareness of breast cancer too. When a friend of ours had a family member diagnosed with breast cancer, he donated profits from one of his musical concerts to our Breast Cancer Now funds.

In 2016, Clare took part in the Leeds World Triathlon, raising £1,798.75. The local pub and health club have a box of on-brand keyrings out all year round and we’ve been so surprised with everyone’s generosity, with some giving £10 instead of the suggested £1.

As of December 2016 we have raised a grand total of £63,965.83! Not only this, people are talking about cancer more now, and are recognising the positive developments in research and recovery, but also realising that there is still much work to do. Secondary breast cancer still has no cure, and this is why Mum works so hard to support Breast Cancer Now.

Join our 2017 walk

The walk continues to grow from strength to strength each year and it’s such a lovely way to see friends and to walk and talk along the towpath. It has become an institution, one that is happy to welcome new walkers as well as non-walkers, who are always welcome to come at the end for a coffee, chat, and one of Jenny’s delicious cakes.

If you live nearby or even want to travel to us, we would love for you to join us on Sunday 9 April for our annual walk.

We start and end at Cedars Health Club, Richmond Hill, Richmond Upon Thames, Surrey, TW10 6RP. The walk starts at 12.30pm and lasts approximately two hours.