Monday, 10 June 2013

Race For Life 2013: Cancer We're Coming To Get You

Little D wore my RFL Supporter's Band

Yesterday, I completed my 4th Race for Life.  A fabulous charity race for cancer research, that involves women of all ages and fitness levels who all have one thing in common: we have all been affected by cancer.

I don't consider myself a 'runner' on any level, particularly since giving birth to Daisy - I've got a way to go before I start any kind of marathon training - but the reason I take part in Race for Life is because it's become my way of raising money for a charity that needs it.  There is no pressure to be the best and run the fastest, there is nothing but a lovely atmosphere and a day where you can allow yourself to be over-emotional, as you read the racers' messages of love, support and memory.  Sometimes it can get a little bit too much.

This year, there was something quite special about completing the race knowing Mr Peachy and Little D were at the finish line; I guess now I'm a Mother, there has become even more importance in doing Race for Life, so that the researchers can continue to find a cure to battle this horrible disease that will affect nearly half the population in our lifetime.

So who do I race for??  The list is endless, there are relatives I lost at a young age, Grampy Stan, Great Uncle Al, my Grandmother May, and there is the future for Daisy, where she might live to see a cancer-free world.  But I do always honour the memory of our friend, Hannah Gregory.  Hannah lost her fight to cancer aged just 23, a bright and resilient woman with everything to look forward to.  Two years ago, I wrote an article as part of a competition for Elle magazine, about someone who inspired me.  I wasn't fortunate enough to win, but I do feel proud that I wrote it and proud that I knew her.  So today, I would like to share it with you.  I hope you enjoy and perhaps I'll see you at next year's race...only this time, I'll be sprinting!

                                  For Hannah and All That Came After (2011)
'In a matter of weeks, we will all be celebrating in style as we wave a reluctant ‘au revoir’ to my dear friend Cat, who is off on a much-longed-for adventure around the world, for who knows how long.  Rachel and I will be quite lost without her on our continent; the three of us all surrogate sisters, all reliant on each other, but one person will be notably absent from the celebrations.  Notable, of course, because she would have been the one person who would have encouraged Cat from day one, not to mention seen her off with nothing but smiles and endless shots of Tequila.  Our friend Hannah, a passionate and wonderful person, whose life was cut tragically short by The Big C, aged just 23.

I was an idiotic, sullen nineteen year old when I first met Hannah, she - all mile-high legs and bleach blonde hair, me - caught up in the throes of a hideous ‘woe is me’ crush and desperate to be ‘different’.  I paid little attention to a future that crept closer and grew ever more uncertain as the hazy safety of my University days flew by.  We all lived in the moment I suppose, but not with passion, in denial, in limbo.  Hannah was the girl who made it happen, who approached life with a shrug of the shoulders; the girl who would advance on the intimidated guys staring in clubs to get answers, if nothing more.  The girl who realised there was more to her and all that she did, who saw her first diagnosis as a springboard to plan for a brighter future, to gain a place at University and fulfil her dreams of becoming an English teacher.  I only wish she had got that far.  Even in the deepest, darkest moments of her illness, she never once questioned ‘why’, she simply beheld a belief in beating it and, when she knew she could fight no more, concentrated on making the dreams of those closest to her come true; by creating a living will.  A testament to her giving nature, a need to provide a future for those around her, one that she would not share. 
Years have gone by and the three of us, Rachel, Cat and I have remained the closest of friends.  We continue to be each other’s confidantes, encouragement, discouragement where necessary, shoulders to cry on and, last year, Cat and I played the roles of proud bridesmaids on Rachel’s Wedding Day!  We are all still bonded, as ever, but not in the wake of the impossible unfairness of Hannah’s passing, but in her incredible vitality for life, even when she was staring death in the face.

They say everyone who comes into your life, comes into it for a reason.  Well if that’s the case, I will forever question why we had Hannah for such a short time and why other unnecessary types mess about in our daily existence for so much longer.  Either way, Hannah was the sort of person who could instil those feelings of endless possibilities within you, someone who would always tell you to ‘Go for it’ whether ‘it’ be the pursuit of a true love or scaling Mount Everest; even if she does now represent a tragic reminder of the fragility of life in all of us. 

I cannot help but think she is perhaps a big reason why Cat is following her dreams of round the world travel, or why Rachel and her Husband are in the process of planning a permanent move to Australia.  Perhaps it was Hannah who really did lie at the root of my decision to break free from the quiet routine of my existence in Somerset and move to London, to realise my dreams of becoming a writer, or even just become a part of a new city, to start a new life.  I’d like to think she is here as I sit, typing this, urging me to complete this, another step on the road to recognition.  Either way, I believe she left us all with a message; to see and do everything you want to and to experience all that you can, because she ran out of time and time, for us, no matter how much we have left, is a gift that we must all cherish.

So here I sit, finally half the embodiment of everything I think I want to be, copper hair, ridiculous shoes, inked body and consumed heart.  Different.  I’m still planning, celebrating, dreaming and always inspired by my sweet, but all too short friendship with Hannah; the three of us are now forever unbound by the limits of our ever-changing everyday lives, exploring our own little worlds and living our own big dreams.

Wherever you may be now, dear friend, I hope you know we are all still going for it, like you would have wanted us to.  Our hearts might have sunk when we said goodbye, but we were uplifted by you and your fierce, unapologetic, uncompromising attitude towards an illness that may have taken you from us, but at least taught us something about embracing freedom, about believing in endless possibility, if only because sometimes life really is too cruel and too short.  And in that alone you, our lovely girl, will forever live on'.

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