A global pandemic, nationwide lockdown, financial turmoil – 2020 has been one of the most unpredictable and challenging years in recent memory for us all. But for former Great British Bake Off finalist Steph Blackwell, there’s another poignant reason why the last few months have proved so tough.
During lockdown, her father Roger was diagnosed with two types of cancer – terminal bowel cancer, and prostate cancer, which is being managed. Diagnosis for Roger’s rare form of bowel cancer alone took several months, and although it was deemed incurable, the start of his treatment was delayed for six weeks.
‘Like every other family that has been affected by this terrible disease, it has been a massive shock; fear, anger, frustration – we’ve felt it all. Despite this, we have tried to remain positive; Dad is fighting so hard and we’re in awe of his strength,’ she says.
Roger is not alone – coronavirus disrupted the diagnosis, treatment and care of millions of cancer patients in the UK, and charities supporting those with cancer have seen a significant drop in support. Cancer Research UK, for instance, expects to see a 30 per cent decline in fundraising income this year, which amounts to a staggering £160m.
Under the circumstances, it would be easy to feel helpless, but Steph has rallied and channeled her emotions into something positive – completing the Virtual London Marathon on 4 October with her uncle, Roger’s brother John, former leader of the RAF Red Arrows, to generate much needed funds for CRUK.
Steph already had a place in the London Marathon at the beginning of the year, but when news of its cancellation emerged, she committed to taking part regardless, and will now complete the 26.2 miles on a route from John’s home in Lindfield, West Sussex next month.
‘I know my situation isn’t unique, but I also have seen how charities and cancer patients have suffered this year due to COVID – my dad being one of those – and I’m determined to use the platform that I now have to raise as much money as possible on our mission,’ she explains.
In just a few weeks, Steph and John, who have dubbed the challenge ‘Our Marathon Mission‘, have already managed to raise more than £13,000 – more than halfway to their goal of £25,000, which will be donated to Cancer Research UK, and the Cancer Fund at the Dorset County Hospital where Roger is being treated. But in this case, there’s no such thing as too much support – the more money they raise, the more will go towards the vital, lifesaving work both of these organisations do on a daily basis.
‘We’re completely overwhelmed with the generosity shown by people so far, but we’d love to keep up some momentum,’ Steph says. ‘If you think you can help us by contributing something, no matter the amount, in our efforts to raise money together for CRUK, it would be so, so greatly appreciated.’
For more information and to make a donation ahead of the 4 October marathon date, visit Steph and John’s JustGiving page.