Karen to wear T-shirt with pride

Karen out training for the Kirriemuir Relay for Life event in August.
Karen out training for the Kirriemuir Relay for Life event in August.

A Forfar nurse and mum-of-three who has survived cancer is urging people to join Cancer Research UK’s Relay for Life in Kirriemuir.

Karen Fletcher (47) is encouraging friends, families and work colleagues to join together and enter teams for the exciting, overnight event which will take place at the Kirriemuir showfield on August 15 and 16.

She also hopes other cancer survivors, and people currently undergoing treatment, will join her and take part in the inspirational ‘Lap of Honour’ which marks the start of the fundraising festival.

Survivors can be part of a team, or can independently join in this unique celebration of life and hope, which unites communities to help beat cancer and culminates in a fantastic family and team experience.

Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, when she was 42-years-old. She has been treated successfully with surgery, followed by chemotherapy, during which time she tried very hard to continue with her normal life.

Five years on, Karen is proud to join with fellow ‘Forfar Road Runners’ Team members to raise money for the valuable research that is beating cancer, and to wear her ‘survivor’ T-shirt as a sign of encouragement to others who are currently undergoing treatmen.

She said: “Cancer can be very alienating. When you are first diagnosed, people don’t know how to react. I just wanted to feel ‘normal’. I wanted to say, ‘Yes, I have cancer, but I am also a mother, a nurse, a wife, a fitness fanatic, a friend … and that doesn’t stop!’ I was lucky, because I kept relatively well during my treatment, so I was able to continue to cycle, complete with the line for delivering the chemotherapy in my arm. I wasn’t going to put my life on hold; I was going to make the most of every moment.

“Having cancer does make you appreciate life even more, and getting out in our wonderful Angus countryside, on my feet or on my bike, really helped to lift my spirits.

‘‘ I liked it when people who didn’t know I had cancer complimented me on how good my hair was looking - that’s because it spent the night on a wig stand, not on my head! For me, keeping a sense of humour was crucial. But the Kirriemuir Relay for Life in 2011, which was very soon after my treatment finished, was a difficult time for me. I wanted to take part, because I felt passionately about raising money for more of the research that had saved my life, but I really didn’t feel like a survivor yet. I refused to wear a ‘survivor’ T-shirt, and I wouldn’t join in the opening lap of honour. Without really knowing how it happened, I found myself ushered into the special tent where survivors were being treated to champagne and strawberries, as guests of honour. I had the wrong colour of T-shirt, and I felt like a fraud! But actually, I wasn’t the only one, and the camaraderie was amazing. The candle of hope ceremony at night was very moving, and reminded me how grateful I was to be there.

“Every year since, it has got easier. Five years all clear has been a huge psychological hurdle for me, and at my third Kirriemuir Relay for Life in 2015, I will be wearing the special T shirt with a real sense of pride and walking the lap of honour with thankfulness (and anyone who knows me will guess that I won’t be shy about enjoying the treats in the ‘guests of honour’ tent!).

“If you know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, or who is undergoing treatment, please don’t be scared to talk to them. Friends and family are even more important at this time. Taking part in the Relay For Life is a great way to support people with cancer and make a stand against the disease by raising money to fund Cancer Research UK’s life-saving research. I hope that as many people as possible will join in the Kirriemuir Cancer Research UK Relay for life, and I’m looking forward to walking the lap of honour with fellow survivors.”

During Relay For Life, team members take it in turns to walk round a track while everyone else enjoys the carnival atmosphere. As the event continues non-stop through the night, team members not on the track take turns to rest, eat, or sleep in their tents, which are set up close by.

As dusk falls, the atmosphere quietens as the Candle of Hope ceremony begins. The event is the most poignant part of Relay For Life when specially made Candle of Hope bags decorated with touching messages – in memory or in celebration of loved ones - are filled with sand and lit up with candles around the Kirrie Show Field.

Relay For Life participants raise as much money as possible in the months leading up to the overnight celebration, through a wide range of activities from karaoke competitions to quizzes, supermarket bag-packs to charity balls, and securing donations from friends, family and work colleagues.

Various additional fun activities are also open to the whole community and everyone is welcome to join in on the day and help raise further funds for Cancer Research UK’s work to beat over 200 types of cancer.

The money raised by Relay For Life helps to fund Cancer Research UK’s pioneering research to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

Keith Hopkins, volunteer Chairman of Relay For Life in Kirriemuir, said: “During Relay For Life we celebrate life and pay tribute to those who have survived cancer but we also remember and pay tribute to those who have lost their lives to the disease.

“We would love to hear from anyone who wants to find out more about Relay For Life and how they can get involved. This is a unique event and everyone can play a part.”

For more information on how to enter Relay for Life call Rhona Guild, Secretary and Vice Chair, CRUK Kirriemuir Relay for Life on 07971454626 or e-mail rhonaguild@gmail.com.

Find them on Facebook at CRUK Relay for Life Kirriemuir. Alternatively contact Keith Hopkins on 07715 052718 or e-mail keithhopkins@hotmail.co.uk Also, you can find out more about the event and CRUK at cruk.org/relay or call 0871 641 2602.