In the words of the most famous Pink Ladies, well, here we are again. And on behalf of the less famous Pink Ladies, I’d like to say man, we missed you.
I hope you are all as thrilled to see me as Sophie is in this photograph.
That’s right all, it’s Race for Life season again. I could not be more delighted to welcome you to the EIGHTH Sister Act Race for Life campaign. Sister Act the Eighth. Like Henry, but with less beheading. Eight years of pink lipstick, sweary placards, emotional moments, unbelievable totals and plenty of tears. You have all been absolute superheroes throughout this journey and I will never be able to tell you how much that means to me and my family.
For those of you who are just joining the party, come on down! We’ve been expecting you and we’re absolutely thrilled that you’ve arrived. On the off chance that there is anyone left on the planet who doesn’t already know our story, here are the Cliff’s Notes:
When I was fifteen and Sophie was just eleven, our mum was diagnosed with cervical cancer. This was, and is, the most frightening thing that I have ever had to deal with. My mum is more than our rock, she’s a diamond shining at the centre of our family, the strongest, sparkliest person I’ve ever had the joy of knowing. The loss of her would have torn a hole in our lives, so world-alteringly massive that now, ten safe years later, I struggle to even comprehend it. My mum is smart, she is funny, she is strong, more than all of those things, she is loved.
None of those things are what saved her.
Cancer, to put it bluntly, doesn’t give one single shit how strong, how loved, how needed our loved ones are. It takes them anyway. As if I needed reminding, the last eight years have shown me that, our back signs growing more and more crowded as cancer takes more of our people from us.
My mum wasn’t saved by her strength, her smarts, her unalteringly fierce spirit – although those things saved me and my sister too many times to count. She was saved by one thing. She was saved by research.
Forty years ago, just 1 in 4 people survived cancer for more than ten years. In just forty years, research has doubled those odds. Now 2 in 4 people survive. That’s incredible. And it’s nowhere near good enough. We can’t wait another forty years for our odds to get better while cancer takes and takes and takes. We are beating cancer. But we need to beat it faster.
It’s been a big year for the Sister Act team. You might remember that last year, we were looking forward to celebrating our mum’s ten years clear. We did so with great aplomb.
We had balloons and fairy lights and offensively named cocktails (french smeartini, anyone?) and my mum was more surprised than anyone in the history of the world has ever been. A fantastic success.
Sophie, who was basically an infant when we started seven years ago, is kicking ass on all sorts of levels. Last year, she was awarded the Margaret Pickering prize for being the greatest biologist in living memory, or something to that effect. As I type, she is fully embroiled in a Masters in Medical Genetics and Genomics, actually curing cancer while I wang about on the internet making puns and taking all the credit. She is five feet of stone cold genius and we should all be so damn glad that she has chosen to use those powers for good and not evil.
As for me…well, I’ve had some very recent developments in the cancer-kicking front. In a plot twist that feels both completely outrageous and also entirely inevitable, this week was my first week in my new job at Cancer Research UK. In between pretending to be a professional and walking into walls, I’ve had the privilege of being immersed in the frankly astounding research that’s happening every day thanks to superheroes like you, who sponsor eejits like me.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all of you. I want to gently take all of your faces in my hands and affectionately smush them. Affectionate face smushes for all who want them, admiring cool-guy head nods for everyone else. The past eight years have been unbelievable, spiralling into something bigger and more glorious than I could ever have imagined. Every single one of you who has donated £5, who has sent a message of support, who has strapped on a pink t-shirt of your own, every single one of you is bringing the day closer when 4/4 people are surviving their cancer diagnosis and you’re free from me wanging about on the internet and clogging up your Facebook feeds.
But until that day, on we go.