Portsmouth mum-of-one who battled breast cancer prepares to take on Race for Life

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Vanessa Hillary. Picture: Malcolm Wells

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STANDING in a £40 dress from a department store feeling fatigued, Rachel Hibbert’s wedding day was not the one she had been dreaming of.

The 35-year-old had to plan the big day in just four weeks after being given the devastating news she had cancer.

Rachel Hibbert and husband Jon on their wedding day

Rachel Hibbert and husband Jon on their wedding day

The diagnosis came after the mum-of-one found a lump in her breast.

Despite being reassured by doctors that it was treatable and they expected her to make a full recovery, Rachel was terrified – having lost her mother very quickly to the disease only two years earlier.

So she decided to quickly plan her wedding, squeezing the occasion in between chemotherapy sessions.

Rachel, from Portsmouth, said: ‘I’d found the lump on my chest but I thought there was no way it could be cancer.

I love Race for Life because I know everybody who is there is there for the same reason.

Rachel Hibbert

‘I was 34, fit and healthy and mum to a young child.

‘It was hard to grasp. I was still trying to come to terms with my mum’s death from lung cancer when I was diagnosed myself.’

Rachel’s mum, Liz Key, died aged 53 in February 2015 – three months after being diagnosed after a persistent cough would not shift.

Having watched how cancer changed her mum from being active to someone struggling to breathe made Rachel’s own diagnosis frightening.

She added: ‘I was told I would need a full mastectomy and chemotherapy.

‘They tried to reassure me and told me they expected me to recover but I couldn’t believe it. I had seen how quickly it took over mum.

‘My fiance Jon and I had plans for a beach wedding abroad but I was feeling vulnerable and got it in my head that I wanted to get married and sort things, just in case the worst happened.’

Despite the rush, Rachel said their wedding was perfect and she enjoyed the low-key and relaxed family day.

Now she has finished with her treatment, Rachel wanted to get back to her active lifestyle and has signed up for Race for Life.

She will be joined by her sister Rose when they take on the Southsea event in July.

Rachel added: ‘I couldn’t do it last year because I was too fatigued with treatment, but I have signed up and am determined that Rose and I will cross the finish line together.

‘I love Race for Life because I know everybody who is there is there for the same reason.

‘I know research has the power to save lives and every woman who crosses the finish line is bringing us one step closer to the day when all cancers are cured.’

Southsea Common will turn into a sea of pink across the weekend of July 7 and 8 when Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, returns to the city.

On Saturday, thousands of women will be lining up to get down and dirty by taking part in Pretty Muddy.

Also making a return this year after the success of last year’s inaugural children’s event will be Pretty Muddy Kids.

On Sunday the traditional Race for Life 5k and 10k races will take place from 11am.

Jenny Makin, Cancer Research UK spokeswoman for Hampshire, said: ‘We’d like to thank every woman who laces up her trainers and takes her place at the start line at Race for Life because their participation and contribution is so important.’