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Cancer survivors celebrate with poignant run

PUBLISHED: 15:07 19 July 2009 | UPDATED: 10:56 06 July 2010

Relay for lfe event in aid of Cancer Research UK at Caister high school.

Relay for lfe event in aid of Cancer Research UK at Caister high school.

This was no ordinary endurance challenge. From 12-year-old schoolgirl Tonie Ewles to adults cheered on by their own children, they were, without exception, already proven winners in the biggest battle of all.

This was no ordinary endurance challenge. From 12-year-old schoolgirl Tonie Ewles to adults cheered on by their own children, they were, without exception, already proven winners in the biggest battle of all.

The athletes who lined up to start a 20-hour charity Relay for Life at Caister High School, near Yarmouth, shared a common bond of having fought and survived cancer.

Their survivors' lap made for a poignant beginning to the event, which involved 12 sponsored teams keeping at least one athlete running or walking on the track from 2pm on Saturday to 10am on Sunday.

It was the second year a Relay for Life - a nationwide phenomenon raising funds for Cancer Research UK - has been held at the school.

Organiser Stephen Bower, who lost his wife to cancer three years ago, said: “Last year we raised £19,750 and this time we are confident of beating £25,000.”

The charity's area manager, Paul Fleet, who was among the spectators who braved the cold, rainy start, said: “The survivors are the VIPs of the relay. They are inspirational. Years ago people diagnosed with cancer often used to hide away. Now they want to share their stories and celebrate being alive.”

He said a touching highlight of the event came at dusk when the track was lit up with candles of hope carrying messages of support and tributes to loved ones.

Tonie, the youngest taking part, had been given only a 30pc chance of survival as a 22-month-old when a tumour the size of a rugby ball was removed from her abdomen.

Now a healthy, active pupil at Caister High, she said: “I want to do lots of laps to do as much as I can to promote the relay's positive message that cancer can be beaten.”

Julie Hanks, 52, of Gorleston, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer eight months after her sister Joanne died of the disease in 2005 and doctors then discovered her family carries a gene that gives a 50pc chance of contracting the disease.

Still undergoing six-monthly check-ups, she said: “It gives you such a lift talking to other survivors.”

Sophie Howlett, 38, of Fleggburgh, cheered on by stepdaughters Rebecca, 13, and Lara, 12, underwent successful chemotherapy and radiotherapy when breast cancer was diagnosed three years ago.

She said: “I want to put something back because you take so much out when you are going through hospital treatment.”

Diane James, 55, of Cambridge, has undergone successful treatment for cancer of the uterus, and said the message she wanted to get across was the importance of early diagnosis and the need to discuss any health concerns with your doctor straight away.

The next Relay for Life in the region is at Earlham High School, Norwich, in September.

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