Hundreds of inspired women of all ages, shapes and sizes will meet on Avenham Park on June 19 for the 2016 Cancer Research Race for Life.
Each will have a story to tell, individual memories and anecdotes but all united in their hope and support to one day find a cure for cancer - and heading them up will be Preston mum Leanne Whyman.
Leanne was just 29, when she was delivered the news she had breast cancer.
A regular runner and swimmer, Leanne was a fit, healthy young mum, running around after her 18-month old daughter Annabelle. She was also pregnant with her second child.
The diagnosis was devastating and terrifying and making sense of her situation was difficult.
“When I was told I had cancer my first question was whether I was going to die and then my second question was whether I would lose my hair,” she recalls.
“It was a difficult and scary time, but I just focussed on being positive for my little girl and getting back to full health as soon as I could.”
Leanne, from Ashton, a teacher in psychology at Kirkham Grammar School, first discovered the lump in her right breast in 2013.
At a routine appointment with her GP, it was suggested the lump could be fibrous and may have developed as a result having stopped breastfeeding Annabelle.
Leanne continued to assess the lump and when it did not go away she was referred to Chorley Hospital for a series of tests.
She says she feared the worst and was devastated when the diagnosis was confirmed.
She immediately began a course of chemotherapy treatment and wore a cold cap to ensure she kept her hair. Surgery followed to remove her right breast. Leanne finally underwent daily radiotherapy for three weeks.
Her treatment had been made all the more difficult having tragically had to terminate the pregnancy at the point of diagnosis, due to medical complications.
Leanne, single mum to Annabelle now four, completed her treatment at the end of 2013 and now receives an annual appointment to check on her progress.
The 31-year-old says: “I feel absolutely blessed to be alive.
“It will be such an honour to stand on stage at Race for Life in front of all these women, many of whom are cancer survivors too. I have only just lost my uncle Sam to prostate cancer and that was a terrible loss as he had been such an influence in my life. I feel proud to be part of a powerful, passionate, pink army of women who are so motivated to help raise money and make a difference.”
Organisers behind this year’s Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life have invited Leanne as this year’s VIP guest at Avenham Park on Sunday June 19. She will be invited on stage to talk about her story before sounding the starting horn and sending participants on their way.
A Race for Life Pretty Muddy event will be held the day before again at Avenham Park on Saturday June 18.
Slipping, sliding and splashing their way through the obstacle course mud-fest will be Christine Atkinson, 52 and daughters Laura, 20, and 28-year-old Rebecca from Lea.
Mum-of-three Christine was diagnosed with breast cancer, aged 38, in 2002
Christine, who works as a district nurse in Penwortham, had the cancerous lump removed during surgery followed by both chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment at the Royal Preston Hospital.
Christine said: “It was such a scary and uncertain time when I was diagnosed. But I was fortunate that the cancer was found at such an early stage and I made such a good recovery.”
Alongside Leanne, the Atkinson family, from Lea, are issuing a rallying cry for women of all shapes and sizes to swing into action and sign up now for the 5k challenge.
Jane Bullock, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Lancashire, said: “Every day, around 110 people are diagnosed with cancer in the North West. That’s why we need women of all shapes and sizes to pull on their leggings, lace up their trainers and show their support.
“Race for Life events are not competitive. They are not about being fit or fast. Taking part is about being part of a collective force of powerful women - of all ages - leading the charge against cancer.
“There are lots of different events to choose from - with 5k, 10k and Pretty Muddy events there’s something to suit everyone.
“We’re urging women to pick the event that puts fire in their bellies and sign up as soon as possible.”
Money raised through Race for Life allows Cancer Research UK’s doctors, nurses and scientists to advance research which is helping to save the lives of men, women and children across Lancashire.
Jane added: “One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their lives. Thanks to advances in research more people are surviving than ever before, but there’s still more work to be done. The fight is on and we’re rallying women across Lancashire to join us at the starting line.
“We know that the ladies of Lancashire are ready to limber up, stride out and take on the challenge so we urge them to sign up now and help bring us one step closer to the day when all cancers are cured.”
l To enter Race for Life today visit www.raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770. For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org.