Walking to make cancer a thing of the past

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Relay for Life is a 24-hour walking event that raises money for Cancer Research. Ruth Scammell went along to the Portsmouth event to talk to those taking part.

Hand-in-hand, with tears streaming down their faces, these cancer survivors proudly walked on in a victory against cancer.

Singer The Spirit of the South (150711-6478)

Singer The Spirit of the South (150711-6478)

It was all for the Relay for Life which took place in Portsmouth this weekend.

The 24-hour event, which involves teams of fundraisers working together to take laps of the track at the Mountbatten Centre, in Alexandra Way, Portsmouth, is in its 19th year.

And for the first time this year a ceremony took place, in which a candle was lit and burned for the entire 24-hour period.

Cancer survivors then proudly started the event with hundreds of people gathering to applaud them.

Every team was in Second World War fancy dress (150711-6500)

Every team was in Second World War fancy dress (150711-6500)

It’s thought this year’s event has raised more than £58,000, which goes to event organiser Cancer Research UK.

It’s a day that’s become even more poignant for Sandy Hood, who had been a regular for the past 10 years with his wife Maureen.

In March 2013, Maureen was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, celebrated her 60th birthday in April of the same year before she died a month later in May.

She worked with Chichester housing association company Hyde Group and was part of a relay team called Miracles.

The Chief's Champions '' (150711-6527)

The Chief's Champions '' (150711-6527)

This year, in tribute to Maureen the team renamed themselves Maureen’s Miracles.

Sandy, of Barnham in West Sussex, says: ‘It was all quite a shock, as she had gone to the doctor with shoulder pain and swelling.

‘She had always been a massive supporter of Cancer Research UK and I had come along to support her for around 10 years.

‘I still come as it’s a great event and a way to remember.

Participants in the Relay for Life  (150711-6535)

Participants in the Relay for Life (150711-6535)

‘There are some moments when I don’t want anyone to see me as I’m crying, but other times when it’s so uplifting that I find strength.

‘During the candle-lighting ceremony they played Amazing Grace – that was quite emotional as it was played at Maureen’s funeral.

‘It’s a real special event and I will definitely be coming back next year.’

At yesterday’s closing prize-giving, the team of nine picked up a trophy for raising the most amount of money at £4,354.

Team captain Vicki Saigeman, 42, a scheme co-ordinator for the Hyde Group, says: ‘This is something we have been doing for a long time, but two years ago we changed the name for Maureen.

‘It was a fantastic event because it gave us all a chance to get together and remember her.

Headteacher of Alverstoke Junior School Graham Cutter is towed around the track by  his deputy Marissa Ballard  (150711-6550)

Headteacher of Alverstoke Junior School Graham Cutter is towed around the track by his deputy Marissa Ballard (150711-6550)

‘But this isn’t the only way we raise money for the charity. All year round we hold bake sales and raffles to keep the money coming in.’

The 24-hour relay was broken up into different events in order to make it more fun and keep people interested and alert.

This included Zumba, an egg-and-spoon race, a three-legged race, wear-your-hat relay, belly dancing, a sack race, welly boot throwing and a tug of war.

Hilary Kilby, 58, from Fareham, had breast cancer.

She said: ‘Having cancer can be dark and despairing but something like this is so supportive and you meet some lovely people.

‘It’s so good to see so many strangers out and about doing these crazy things just to help people.’

Maxine Kirk is chairman of the Portsmouth Relay for Life.

She said: ‘We all are here to celebrate the lives of people that have passed from cancer and those of us that survived cancer.

‘We spend 24 hours walking round the track because cancer doesn’t sleep.

‘It means an awful lot. It’s the most special way to spend 24 hours. We are all doing it for a reason, either because we are a cancer survivor ourselves or because we’ve lost somebody to cancer.

‘People love taking part. We’ve got teams that have come back for 19 years.’

Margaret Selby, 59, is from Waterlooville. She recently finished a bout of chemotherapy as she was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

She said: ‘I’ve had such a struggle this year and I’ve been so supported that I just had to give something back.

‘This is emotional and uplifting. It’s just fabulous.’

Nicola Stoyles from Gosport (150711-6572)

Nicola Stoyles from Gosport (150711-6572)