Sisterly love as Eleanor from Penwortham gets ready for Race for Life in Preston

Eleanor McMonagle, of Penwortham, and sister Lena Linklater at a previous Race for Life event
Eleanor McMonagle, of Penwortham, and sister Lena Linklater at a previous Race for Life event

Eleanor McMonagle never believed she could be a runner – until her elder sister was diagnosed with cancer and all that changed.

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Eleanor McMonagle,of Penwortham, with daughters Sian and Anais at a previous Race for Life event

Eleanor McMonagle,of Penwortham, with daughters Sian and Anais at a previous Race for Life event

The 52-year-old, from Penwortham, took part in her first Cancer Research UK Race for Life at Preston eight years ago after her elder sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and she has taken part ever since.

It was her sister, Lena Linklater, 54, who lives in Dundee, Scotland, who encouraged Eleanor to start running.

Eleanor says: “She was my inspiration. I wanted to raise money for research. She did some running. I didn’t think I could possibly run but she encouraged me to start slowly round the block a couple of times and build it up from there.

“I tried what she suggested and I have been running ever since.”

I didn’t think I could possibly run but she encouraged me to start slowly round the block a couple of times and build it up from there.

Eleanor, who works part-time as a dinner lady at Cop Lane Primary School, was given even more reason to take part in Race for Life after her mum, Dolina Thompson, was also diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Eleanor’s sister Lena, who is now clear of cancer, encouraged her to run a marathon and she took part in her first one in Liverpool in 2015. Together they raised £1000 for Cancer Research UK.

Eleanor, who has four children, adds: “It was an amazing experience. Mum was so proud of us”.

Dolina, who was known as “Lena” like her daughter in Scotland, also lived in Penwortham. She lost her battle aged 77 after the cancer spread to her bowel and stomach.

Dolina Thompson, of Penwortham, who died of cancer in 2015, aged 77

Dolina Thompson, of Penwortham, who died of cancer in 2015, aged 77

Eleanor and other family members – including Lena, a policewoman, who travelled from Scotland - looked after their mum for as long as they could until she was moved to St Catherine’s Hospice.

Eleanor says: “With help from carers we wanted to keep her at home as long as possible. Mum was amazing. She never complained. When she was transferred to St Catherine’s we thought she was losing her battle.

“But she did perk up enough to be sent home where she wanted to die.”

Dolina died in August 2015 with the whole family around her.

Eleanor McMonagle, of Penwortham, with her mum, Dolina Thompson

Eleanor McMonagle, of Penwortham, with her mum, Dolina Thompson

As well as her three daughters, her two sons travelled from Orkney and Dunstable to be with her.

Eleanor adds: “She was such a strong woman. She was inspirational.”

Her loss encouraged Eleanor to continue running and as well as Race for Life she has since completed a half marathon.

Eleanor has been accompanied by her two youngest daughters, Sian, 16 and Anais, 10, at the more recent Race for Life events in Preston. Sian, was first to cross the finish line last year.

They all plan to take part again in June and Eleanor has persuaded her other sister, Dee Ibbotson, who also lives in Preston, to take part.

Eleanor says: “The atmosphere is just amazing. I love the warm up and seeing so many women in pink there for a good cause. The first time I took part I felt really nervous but everyone is so happy.

“When I look at the reasons women are taking part from their back signs, I find the day quite emotional.

“If my story can encourage anyone else to do Race for Life, then that would be great”.

One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their lives, but the good news is more people are surviving the disease now than ever before. Cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress.

Jane Bullock, Cancer Research UK’s North West spokeswoman, says: “We are very grateful to Eleanor and her family for their support.

“Taking part in Race for Life is a special and unique experience - full of emotion, courage, tears and laughter.

“By joining like-minded ladies committed to the cause, women can unite against a disease that affects us all in some way. Every step participants take will help to support crucial research.”

Race for Life Pretty Muddy events for both children and adults will be held at Moor Park on Saturday June 16.

A 5k and 10k event will be held at Moor Park on Sunday June 17.

To enter Race for Life today visit www.raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770.

Every year, around 41,700 people are diagnosed with cancer in the North West.