Sister Act: High Five

It’s that time of year again, when a familiar message whispers through the trees, dancing on the air, pulling us in.

Stay very still. Listen carefully. You’ll be able to hear it.

“…ssssserrrr…fffuu…answer…pphhhh…kanser…ffffuuuuuuuck canceeeeeeer”

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That’s right folks, it’s Race for Life season. If you have followed our journey from the start, you might want to skip the next few paragraphs – you probably know the story better than me at this stage.

For those just joining us…welcome to the party.

This is a story all about how
my life got flipped and turned upside down.
So why don’t you take a moment, just sit right there
and I’ll tell you how cancer tried to kill my mum and ruin my life.

*dance break*

When I was sixteen, my mum was diagnosed with cervical cancer. My sister Sophie was twelve. I had never been so afraid in my entire life. I don’t think any of us had. Luckily for all of us, advances funded by Cancer Research in early detection and treatment meant that my mum made a full recovery and celebrated her five years clear a few years ago. She now spends her time drinking cocktails, compulsively booking cruises and throwing dance parties in her kitchen.

My mum is the bravest, strongest person that I know. I talk a lot about her kicking cancer’s ass. But the truth is, cancer doesn’t give a toss how brave or strong you are. Bravery and strength isn’t what saved my mum – although her bravery and strength saved the rest of us a million times over.

Twenty-four years ago, my dad lost a mother who was just as brave and as strong as mine. The leaps forward that Cancer Research have made meant that I didn’t lose mine.

Every year, I think this story will get easier to tell, but it doesn’t. I will never forget that it is because of Cancer Research that my mum was around to do my makeup for my prom, and for my sister’s. She drove us both to University and cheered at my graduation. We got to walk her down the aisle, and maybe someday, she’ll return the favour. I will always and forever be indebted to Cancer Research, to everyone who has donated, to the amazing scientists, nurses and carers who meant that my mum stuck around and stayed the amazing, sparkly, wonderful person that she is.

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So I figured, I’d better work off some of that debt. This will be our FIFTH year of Race for Life, which I think definitely deserves another dance break.

*dance break*

It’s been a crazy, amazing journey, featuring bucketloads of tears, a lot of seriously bad dancing, me in the papers dressed as Hit Girl, support from actual superhero Mark Millar, doughnuts with “fxxk cancer” printed on them and a dog in a t-shirt. We have raised a total of £3700 over the last four years. That’s pretty damn amazing.

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But cancer still isn’t getting the message. It continues to steal away people that we love. There is so much more to be done. And I won’t stop until no mother ever has to sit down her children and tell them that she has cancer.

We’ll be having loads of fun here on the blog over the next month, keeping you updated on fundraising progress, super-strict training regimes and all the ridiculous things that I’ll do to get your money.

Seriously, I’ll do whatever. I’ll write you a poem, I’ll hand illustrate you a postcard, I’ll record a song for you and put it on Youtube, I’ll bake you a cake, I’ll draw you a (dreadful) portrait. Name it. Whatever it takes for you to click that lovely donate button, it’s yours.

Cancer messed with the wrong family. It’s going down.

Support us here! Or, if internet pages ain’t your thang, you can text your donation by texting “SOFI57 £5” to 70070. 

Wrap Up London

Those of you who know me well will know that I love my bed. Seriously, for me, sleeping could be considered a hobby. I am the least morningy person you’ve ever met, and generally need a good eight hours sleep and two cups of tea before I’m even vaguely conscious in the mornings. So what, in the name of all that is holy could possibly prompt me to get out of bed at 5:30am on a normal working day?

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This week is Wrap Up London, an amazing event run by Hands On London, where coats and jackets will be collected at tube stations all across the city and donated to people in need. After my recent experience with one of London’s homeless people, you better believe this would get me up at 5:30am.

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A Wrap Up London volunteer braves the commuter crowds.

The campaign doesn’t collect money at the tube stations, they just take those old coats that are gathering dust at the back of your wardrobe and give them to someone who might get cold this winter – whether they are homeless, women fleeing abuse, victims of trafficking or suffering from fuel poverty. A simple, but beautiful idea.

I caught up with Volunteer Coordinator, Alice to chat about the campaign.Alice has been part of the Wrap Up London campaign since it began four years ago, joining as a lowly intern and staying part of it ever since! The great thing about Wrap Up London, she says, is that it’s a charity with such an immediate, tangible benefit. Wrap Up London volunteers are collecting coats that the owners no longer need or want and giving them directly to the people who need them. Every single coat donated means that one more person stays warm this winter. She’s right. That’s amazing.

For the record, last year’s campaign collected just under 17,000 coats.

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Team leader Louise bags up one of many generous donations.

I ask her about her most inspiring Wrap Up London moments, and I challenge your heart not to warm at them. She told stories of people collecting coats from their whole streets and driving them to collection points. Others collected in their work and showed up with entire shopping trolleys bursting with coats. But her favourite story was that of a man who walked past the collection point, backpedaled, took off his coat and handed it to the volunteers, saying, “I need to buy a new one anyway”. Upon seeing this, the man behind him remarked that this was a great idea and proceeded to do exactly the same. For a city with a reputation for being cold-hearted, London, I am damn proud of you.

There are collection stations all over London this week, running from 7am until 11am, Wednesday – Friday. If you have an old coat that you’ve been meaning to get rid of, please do consider donating it to this amazing cause. Drop it off on your commute, get your good deed done before 9am, feel awesome all day and help someone get through the winter.

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This photo was taken at 8:30. Look at the bags already full behind them.

For more information on Wrap Up London collections, click here! You can also follow Hands On London on Twitter, and get involved with the campaign using the hashtag #WrapUpLondon.

Give a coat. Warm a heart.

The Race for Everything

I was sixteen years old when my mum was diagnosed with cancer. Sophie was just twelve. For a lot of kids, that story doesn’t have a happy ending. For us, it was a happy beginning.

This is my mum, having just run the Race for Life, five years clear of cancer.

Snip20140506_1Since we decided that cancer could go shove it, the Race for Life has become a pretty big day in Sophie and I’s calendar. For those who don’t know (seriously, do you live under a rock, hypothetical reader?), the Race for Life is Cancer Research UK’s biggest fundraising event of the year. It encourages women to walk, run or dance 5 or 10k to raise money for research into all cancers. Don’t let the pink fool you, these guys are all about the less glamorous cancers. Wassup pancreatic cancer, we are coming after you. This year, our third Race for Life, we somehow managed to rope in pretty much all of the women we are related to and created the most thoroughly babein’ running team of all time. I say babein’ now. Deal with it.

BOOM.

BOOM.

Yes. Yes we did put our dog in a tshirt. And I stand by it as the greatest decision any of us have ever made.

Go on, tell me you've seen something better than this today. I dare you.

Go on, tell me you’ve seen something better than this today. I dare you.

In keeping with tradition, I was bawling my eyes out before we’d even crossed the start line, in response to all the beautiful, inspiring and occasionally tragic back signs. Everyone was racing for different reasons, motivated by different people and events but one message rang out loud and clear:

We are racing for all of us. We are racing for everyone.

One in three of us will be affected by cancer in our lifetime. Research funded by events like the Race for Life means that cancer survival rates have doubled in the last 50 years. Even a humanities student like me can tell you, that’s some damn good maths.

My back sign.

My back sign.

Mum's back sign.

Mum’s back sign.

As always, the Race was a totally awesome day out. Really, if you haven’t done it before, get signed up immediately, it is the most fun ever. I promise, I laughed just as much as I cried. I feel like that sentence may not have sold it to you. Okay, look:

BEST

BEST

DAY

DAY

EVER

EVER

The thing I find funny about the Race is that everybody congratulates you as if you’ve done something really incredible and amazing and brave. But the truth is…well, I mean, look at those photos. Running (and by running, I obviously mean walking) the Race is loads of fun. The heroes are the ones who gave up their daily coffees and threw a fiver our way. Who sponsored us again, even though they’ve given the past two years. Who managed to find a little bit of money, even though they’re totally skint. We even had real life superhero creator Mark Miller make a stupidly generous donation of £100 after I very cheekily reminded him of that one time that we met this one time. Every penny added up to an incredible, target-busting £1100.

To everyone who donated and supported us, you are my full on heroes. Honestly, I love you and you are so much more excellent than I can ever hope to be. I want to bake you all delicious cakes and have them hand delivered to your door by your choice of handsome young man or lady. It is because of people like you that my mum is still around to buy a dog and dress her in hilarious novelty tshirts.

Snip20140506_7If you’d like to find out more about the Race for Life and the research it funds, check out their website here! If you’re feeling a bit heavy with all your moneybags and want to become one of my lifelong heroes, you can sponsor us here! I will personally start your fanclub.

Until next year, folks.

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