A Milton Keynes woman whose mother, husband and sister all died from cancer is determined to honour a promise to run Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life non-stop in their memory.
Not a natural runner, Debbie Wright, 49, has been working hard to ensure she meets the challenge set by her sister, Tracy, who died on Boxing Day last year after a 20-year-long battle with various cancers.
Debbie, who lives in Tattenhoe, and Tracy, 51, also lost their mum to cancer in 1995. The family discovered Tracy was carrying the BRACA1 gene, a faulty gene which gives the
carrier an approximately 70 per cent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and an estimated 45 per cent risk of ovarian cancer.
Mother-of-three Debbie was only 25 when her mum, Gill, died in 1995 from ovarian cancer.
“That was long before they did any testing for the BRACA1 gene. My sister was first diagnosed with breast cancer in her 30s and she battled breast and ovarian cancers over the following 20 years."
Debbie, who tested negative for the BRACA1 gene, said: “She was very brave and inspirational. She never complained. She just got on with it. When she died, she left a
husband and three sons.”
Debbie’s husband, Simon, died on December 27, 2017 - a year almost to the day before her sister - after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. He had his 50th birthday a week before
he died. Simon, who grew up in Bow Brickhill, had suffered no symptoms before being diagnosed.
“During the previous Christmas I had suffered from gastroenteritis. Mine cleared up. Simon seemed to have the same, but his didn’t clear up.
“He died almost 9 months to the day after he was diagnosed.”
“It came as a complete shock to all the family. You just have to cope. There wasn’t a choice.
“By the time he was diagnosed the cancer had already spread.
“We were initially told he had three to six months to live – possibly six to nine if he had chemotherapy.”
Six chemotherapy treatments helped to extend Simon’s life by a few months but as soon as they stopped the cancer continued to grow.
Debbie and Simon had three children, Steven, 28, Charlotte, 22, Jack, 14.
Debbie said: “I have just had to get on with life. The children are coping and I am as OK as I can be.
“Before my sister died, we had talked about me doing Race for Life but Tracy said I must run it, not walk. I think she wanted to give me a challenge and I promised her before she died I
would run it.”
Debbie, who works in retail, joined the Redway Runners beginnners’ course and has been taking part in park runs. She recently completed a 5k run in Willen in 43 minutes.
“I felt absolutely isolated having lost three close family members to this awful disease, but running has not only helped me but I have also made some great friends too”, said Debbie.
“As long as I can keep going I will complete the 5k at Race for Life.”
Charlotte is taking part, along with Debbie’s best friend, Annette Smyth.
Debbie added: “I put my 5k challenge on social media immediately to ensure I couldn’t back out!”
Within two days Debbie had raised £900 for Cancer Research UK through sponsorship and the total is gradually inching up to the £1k mark.
“There is no way I can back out now. It will be an emotional day thinking about my mum, husband and my sister."
Debbie said by taking part and sharing her story she hoped to raise awareness and encourage others in Milton Keynes to join up for Race for Life and raise money for life-saving research.
This year, for the first time, Cancer Research UK is inviting women, men and children to join the Race for Life. There are events for people of all ages and abilities taking place at Willen Lake on Sunday June 9 and Saturday September 7.