Summer is on the way. There are signs that roll around every year to tell us that the season is getting ready to change. Londoners brave bare legs in the morning, only to grumpily resign and put on the emergency pair of tights we’ve stashed in our handbag by lunchtime. Blossom petals pave the streets in blush and white as they’re replaced on the branches by shy, crinkled leaves. And of course, I start filling up all of your social media sites with pink t-shirts and pleas for money.
That’s right, everyone, it’s Race for Life season again.
I’m sure most of you are well versed in my personal beef with cancer by now but if you’re new to the party, come on in! Grab a drink, put your feet up. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes:
When I was sixteen and my sister Sophie was just eleven, my mum was diagnosed with cervical cancer. My mum is the greatest person in the world and handled her diagnosis and treatment with courage, strength and panache that was, and is to this day, the most unfathomable and inspiring thing I’ve ever had the privilege to witness from another woman. She was an absolute pillar of strength at a time when I’m sure she must have felt like her whole world was falling apart.
But that isn’t what saved her.
What saved her, what kept her alive, what meant that she got to stick around to see proms and graduations and whatever else follows, was research. The unbelievable bounds forward in cancer diagnosis and treatment meant that the most important person in my life wasn’t taken away from me. I will always and forever owe an enormous debt of gratitude to everyone who has ever donated towards or worked on finding a cure for cancer. So Sophie and I are paying that forward.
Every year, we and however many members of our family we can rope in, run the Race for Life in an attempt to raise a bit of much needed cash for Cancer Research UK. Because while we got lucky, mothers all over the world are still having to sit down their daughters and tell them that they have cancer. And a lot of those kids…well, they get less lucky than we did.
Just last month, my mum lost one of her best friends to cancer. This year, we’ll be racing in celebration of my mum, as always, but we’ll also be running in celebration of Ellen, whose vivacity, indefatigable kindness and tremendous love will be sorely, sorely missed.
This disease has torn into my family more than once. Every single member of the Sister Act team has had someone taken from them by cancer. And I’m sure you, reading this, wherever you are, can relate to that. And I’m not cool with that. I’ll run this race until I’m 90 years old if I have to, because with enough support and funding, we will beat this. It’s only a matter of time. And money. And for that one, we need your help.
Not all of these posts will be sad, I promise. Running the Race always feels like a triumph for me. It always reminds me of the gift I was given when my mum survived. It generally involves as much laughter as it does tears, largely because I am not above humiliating myself if it makes you more likely to donate. The Sister Act team is probably my greatest and favourite creation. It is an enormous, defiant, fuchsia two fingers up at an enemy I know we’ll beat some day. But it started with a sad thing. So it seems fitting to start the blogs with the sad thing. Two fingers to follow, I promise.