Thousands turn the Southsea Common into sea of pink for Race for Life

STRETCH The big warm-up for the 5km event on Southsea Common.    ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (112603-3595)
STRETCH The big warm-up for the 5km event on Southsea Common. ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (112603-3595)

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HAVING finished their last doses of radiotherapy just weeks ago, Karen Roberts and Marie Wilson were determined to beat cancer – and the Race for Life – together.

The pair, pictured on the front page, are just two of the thousands of women who took part in this year’s record-breaking Race for Life on Southsea Common.

Karen, from Farlington, was diagnosed with breast cancer in October last year, on her 41st birthday.

Despite only finishing her last dose of radiotherapy two weeks ago, she was fighting fit at the starting line with her friends yesterday.

Marie, 34, of Roundway, Waterlooville, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time as Karen.

They fast became friends and decided taking part in the Race for Life would mark their dedication to fighting the disease.

‘I was racing for my mum, who didn’t beat it, my sister, who did and myself and Karen, who will,’ said Marie.

‘I met Karen after it turned out we had a lot of mutual friends.

‘We were both diagnosed at roughly the same time and were both due to have surgery at the same time. Now we have become very good friends and are quite close.

‘It has been really lovely to have someone there who is going through the same things at the same time.

‘I have had some really awful days but I’m not going to complain about them because the treatment is what is going to let me see my kids grow up. I have had a mastectomy and finished a course of chemotherapy four weeks ago but there is still some treatment left. Basically there is nothing left but they can’t be sure I’ve got the all-clear for a while yet.’

Marie’s mother died 14 years ago after suffering from liver cancer. Her sister Teresa was then diagnosed with breast cancer but was given the all-clear eight years ago.

‘I took part in the race for them as well as Karen and me,’ added Marie.

‘It was really beautiful, seeing all those people in pink but also sad knowing everyone has been affected by cancer in some way.’

Karen, of Elm Tree Road in Farlington, went back to her job as a receptionist at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham three weeks ago.

She said: ‘I was diagnosed with cancer on my 41st birthday which wasn’t a very nice birthday present.

‘At first they told me I had the all-clear but it turned out it hadn’t gone away. I have had three lots of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the last of which was two weeks ago.

‘I’m so glad it’s over. It’s like living in a goldfish bowl with everyone looking in at you all the time.

‘At times it felt like it would be going on forever but now I have come out of the other side of it.

‘The treatment I have had at QA has been absolutely amazing. They were incredible.

‘Marie and I were lucky we could have some care at home from our friend Emma Chase, who is the senior sister in the accident and emergency department.

‘I knew I was going to beat it. That was never a question. To be honest I didn’t have the time for it, I just wanted it gone.’

More than 9,000 women ran, jogged and walked the 10km and 5km routes in this year’s Race for Life to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

It was a record turnout for the Portsmouth event, which is thought to have been the biggest in the region this year.

Organisers hope the total amount of cash raised by the racers will be around £850,000, more than double what was raised last year.

There was a wide range of participants in the race, from youngsters who could barely walk to elderly women in wheelchairs.

Most of those who take part do so in memory of loved ones who have won or lost their battles with cancer.

Some participants are survivors of the disease while many others are still undergoing treatment.