Almost 14 years ago I heard those dreaded words “I’m sorry you have cancer.” A major inconvenience 2 weeks before a 26 mile sponsored walk and 1 week before leading a cub camp for 20 cub scouts.
I also received the good news that Hodgkins Lymphoma had a 95% cure success rate at the same time though.
The walk went ahead successfully (well I hadn’t started the treatment), over £1000 sponsorship raised if I recall properly and so did the camp (although it did mean delaying my first chemotherapy for a day – result an unimpressed wife).
I am pleased to say that having gone through chemo and radiotherapy, assisting with the trial of a new P.E.T. scanner along the way, I was given the all clear .The result was I came through it gaining a much thicker head of hair as well as an unwelcome half stone extra in weight; still there has to be some price to pay I guess.
Every summer I completed a sponsored walk of some sort raising money for various charities but it was always the same thing and the same people donating. Then some friends told me of an amazing 24 hour walking event that they had taken part in and how fantastic it was, with all sorts of emotional events over the weekend.
I told them, they must be mad walking around a track for all of that time. They soon put me right explaining that it was a relay walk and they took it in turns to carry the team baton; there was various themed laps, live acts on stage, food stalls ( aha I thought getting better), all enjoyed in an incredible atmosphere. “Why not join our team?” they asked, “survivors are VIP guests of honour and you get a celebratory lunch.”
In 2015 I registered for the Cancer Research Relay For Life Bury St.Edmunds and joined my team of friends to raise money from an assortment of events we arranged throughout the year (much better than asking the same people for sponsor money again).
The weekend arrived and I joined 33 other survivors on the opening lap around the front of Ickworth House, the emotion of following a piper and 2 under 10 year old cancer survivors cannot be put into words – suffice to say many tissues were used.
Walking along with hundreds of others chatting, laughing, crying, consoling, throughout the rest of the weekend I made a number of new friends. Then more tears at dusk when the walking track was illuminated with hundreds of candle bags, each one decorated with a message of hope or in remembrance of a loved one lost to this dreadful disease.
The ‘Candle of Hope’ ceremony shows there is ‘Hope’ for a ‘Cure’ and these words are spelt out, also with candle bags, taking centre stage for the rest of the night.
Well, most of the volunteer Committee of 2015 felt they wanted to pass the mantel on after several years of organising this major event for the whole of Suffolk. Members of our team, being a little more extrovert than some, were asked if we would consider forming part of a new committee, along with several other more interested participants. Myself and Matthew Darkins agreed to become joint chairs of the whole event and a new committee was born for 2016.
Continuing the tradition of having Ickworth House for a venue , we overcame a considerable number of hurdles (including several created by our hosts themselves) until on a windy, drizzly weekend in September all those problems were put behind us and 49 cancer survivors (the greatest number ever for Bury St. Edmunds) set the event in motion and over £23,000 was raised.
Time to ring the changes we decided and so the venue was switched to Nowton Park for 2017 and WOW! What a difference, local celebrity James Sheen (I think you will know of him) agreed to open our event. We had 62 survivors – still increasing the number. The sun shone, the live stage acts played throughout Saturday, there was Zumba, there was childrens‘ time, there was bouncy castles and food stalls, a Christmas themed lap (yes we played Merry Xmas Everybody in JULY and had several Santas walking our track).
A YMCA lap – amazing fancy dress and I couldn’t even start to tell you what we saw during the ‘check ya bits’ lap when people were asked to wear their underwear on the outside!!!! At least 3 people walked the entire 24 hours clocking up over 50 miles each. Along the way our 23 teams raised over £41,000 for Cancer Research.
Several newcomers were heard to say that despite being told all about Relay it just couldn’t be put into words. That really sums it all up; a total emotional roller coaster, fun and enjoyment, sadness and joy, but beyond all HOPE. Hope that one day we can say that cancer is a thing of the past. The researchers are making progress doing their bit and now we are doing our bit to raise funds so that they can carry on.
Terry Chittock (WLBSE Admin) has formed a Team for We Love Bury St. Edmunds, time to DO YOUR BIT, register to join the team; maybe form a new team of your own with friends, neighbours or work colleagues; or register as a survivor (either as part of a team or if not as an individual).
No entrance fee, no minimum sum to raise but a guarantee of a truly unique weekend and experience.
Cancer never sleeps and for 24 hours nor do we.