Vale mum urges women to race for life

By Gary Smee 11/05 Updated: 11/05 12:40

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Buy photos » Debbie Roberts and her partner Tony Hawker are urging women to sign up to this year’s Race for Life. (s)

A PERSHORE mum, whose partner lost his hair when she had chemotherapy, is urging women across the region to sign up for Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life.

Debbie Roberts was cheered across the finishing line at last year’s Race for Life in Worcester by her partner Tony Hawker, whose hair fell out due to stress while she was having treatment for breast cancer.

The 38-year-old took part in the 5km event alongside her mum, Jane Harper, and two sisters Victoria Harper and Karen Bolton. The women raised over £500 for Cancer Research UK’s life-saving work.

Now Debbie is rallying other Vale mums, daughters, sisters, grandmas and friends to join the fight against cancer by signing up for Worcester Race for Life on Sunday, June 24 at Pitchcroft Racecourse.

Mum-of-three Debbie was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2010 at the age of 36, when her youngest child, Emily Hawker, was only three years old.

She went to the GP after noticing a change in the shape of her nipple, and was told to come back in a few weeks if the symptoms persisted. A couple of months later Debbie felt a definite lump in her breast, and only then did she go back to the doctor and she was referred to Worcestershire Royal Hospital where she had scans and a biopsy.

"The consultant told me he was worried. That’s when the penny dropped that it might be serious," Debbie said.

"When I was told I had breast cancer my world just fell apart. It was like having an out of body experience. The first thing I said was ‘Am I going to die?"

Debbie was first treated with chemotherapy to shrink the tumour. She was dreading losing her hair, but never expected her partner would go through the same thing.

"It was weird, but after only one session of chemotherapy Tony started to lose his hair," she added. He had suffered from alopecia when he was younger, and we believe it was stress that triggered the condition again. Before long we were both bald! It was the strangest thing, but we dealt with it by trying to keep our sense of humour about it."

Debbie then had a lumpectomy to remove the tumour, but surgeons found a second lump behind it. She then had to undergo a second operation, a mammoplasty, to remove the cancer and reduce both breasts.

The operation was followed by radiotherapy and Debbie’s treatment finished in March 2011. She is now in remission.

But Debbie, who has worked for more than a decade with Penny Raby & Co in Pershore, said she did not take part in last year's event for herself.

"My cousin’s little girl, Niamh Riley, had just died of leukaemia at the age of 11, so we did the event for her," she added.

It was her name on our backs, not mine. I survived my cancer – she didn’t survive. That is why it is so vital to raise money for Cancer Research UK, as no progress can be made without research."

Anyone intereted in signing up for this year's Race for Life can log onto or call 0871 641 1111.

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