‘Everybody thinks they know how you feel, but nobody does’

Mary Cousins, 62, from Horndean, with daughter Maxine, left, from West Leigh and daughter Ruth, right, from Horndean. Picture: Malcolm Wells (132013-2013)
Mary Cousins, 62, from Horndean, with daughter Maxine, left, from West Leigh and daughter Ruth, right, from Horndean. Picture: Malcolm Wells (132013-2013)

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When Mary Cousins received the devastating news that she had breast cancer, it turned her whole world upside down.

Her father had died back in 1997 after suffering from bowel and liver cancer.

But Mary battled through and now she is in remission.

She was among the thousands of entrants in Sunday’s Race for Life in Southsea, walking the 5k with her two daughters by her side.

Mary was diagnosed back in April 2011 after she found a lump in her breast.

She had to have several operations, including a hip replacement which was brought on by the effects of chemotherapy.

‘I was devastated,’ says the 62-year-old grandmother from St Anne’s Road in Horndean.

‘It’s been horrendous because everybody thinks they know how you feel but nobody does.

‘The worst thing for me was losing my eyebrows because you’ve lost your personality then.

‘I did have a lot of support from my family.

‘I’m so lucky that I found it and that I’m alive.

‘Lots of people aren’t.’

Mary’s dad, Eric Freestone, died at the age of 77.

And her brother Alan Freestone, 64, is currently battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

So she has more than one reason to help fight cancer by raising money for Cancer Research UK and to help to find a cure.

‘I wanted to do the Race for Life last year but I was too ill,’ she says.

‘I wanted to do it for everybody else – not just women.

‘It’s not only women who get breast cancer. Men get it too.

‘We need to find something to stop it.’

She adds: ‘When you go round you read all the notices on people’s backs. It really makes me fill up. We cried when we got here.

‘I feel good now though. I’m going to do it again next year.’

Mary’s daughters, Ruth and Maxine, took on the Race for Life alongside their mum in soaring temperatures.

Ruth, 22, also from Horndean, says it was tough for the family when her mum was diagnosed with cancer.

‘It was really hard,’ she says.

‘Even though everyone gets affected by it, you don’t expect it to be someone so close to you.

‘Mum was amazing, even through chemotherapy. She was really brave through it.

‘I wanted to do the Race for Life just to show that on the day people that don’t know each other can all get together and work towards something for everyone.

‘It was emotional. As soon as I got here I felt it. It was a really good experience.’

Ruth also walked the Race for Life in honour of her friend Jamie Whitehouse.

He died of cancer last October at the age of just 24.

Maxine, 30, from West Leigh, was pregnant with her son, Alfie Norman, now two, when she found out her mum was ill.

‘He has been our rock,’ she says.

‘He’s our miracle baby because he’s made our mum strong.

‘After my mum, then having Alfie, my nan passed away as well.

‘It wasn’t a great year – apart from having Alfie.

‘If I didn’t have him I don’t know what I would have been like.’


Soldier Rhiannon Stacey has only recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan and came first in the 10k Race for Life.

The 26-year-old from Denmead is originally from Sydney, Australia, but moved over here two years ago.

Lieutenant Stacey is from the 2nd Battalion of the Duke of Lancaster Regiment and was on two weeks’ rest and recuperation. She finished the 10k race in 44 minutes and 33 seconds.

She says: ‘I’m surprised. I didn’t expect to win. It’s a fairly comfortable distance.

‘I’m used to running mid to long distances. I loved it. I feel exhilarated running.

‘For my job I have to keep very fit. I train every day. I took to training in the middle of the day at 45 degrees. That’s contributed to my increased level of fitness.

‘And I’m from Australia – this isn’t warm at all!’

Rhiannon was running for her cousin’s fiance, Pete Mariner, who is 39 and has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

‘He isn’t very well. He’s riddled with cancer and he doesn’t have very long,’ she adds.

‘It’s so heartening to see the number of people that have turned up today to try and do something.’


Caroline Powell only recently lost her auntie to cancer.

So she decided it would be the perfect time to take part in the 10k Race for Life – despite only just overcoming a bout of laryngitis.

Caroline, 43, from Nettlecombe Avenue in Southsea, ran for Maureen Powell, who recently lost her battle with liver cancer.

Caroline says: ‘I’m quite surprised I ran most of it. I feel great.

‘I didn’t do any training.

‘I feel very proud of myself. The crowd kept me going.

‘The marshals are brilliant. Every step of the way they give you a good cheer.’

And Caroline says Maureen would have been very pleased with what she has achieved.

‘She would love it. She would be really proud,’ she adds.

‘She was an absolutely lovely lady. This is an inspirational idea.’

She adds that the soaring temperatures across Southsea on Sunday made the running conditions difficult.

‘The heat was really bad.

‘It’s better along the seafront when there is a breeze.

‘I don’t do any running. I hardly ever do any exercise.

‘I’m always busy working or looking after the kids.

‘I was trying not to look at the messages on people’s backs because it makes you a bit teary.

‘But there were some really positive messages too.’