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In August, I’m trekking 60km across Iceland (the country, not the supermarket) to raise money for a small but perfectly formed charity named CoppaFeel! Despite the daunting prospect of sore knees, blisters, sleep deprivation from the four hours of nightly darkness and the small matter of raising £2,695, I’m up for the challenge. 

Here’s why:

1. The story behind CoppaFeel! is inspiring

CoppaFeel! was set up by twin sisters Kris and Maren Hallenga. When Kris found out she had breast cancer at 23 years old, she also discovered the cancer had spread to other parts of her body and was incurable. Kris is now 30 years old and frequently refers to “living with cancer” – not dying from it. I can confirm this is 100% true – despite the fact the disease is all over her body and she spends much of her time in and out of hospitals, Kris Hallenga is without doubt the most alive person I know.

Aside from being a kick-ass CEO and lobbying the government on cancer education in schools with her #RethinkCancer campaign, she also throws festivals for charity, has a host of A-list celebrity backers (Dermot O’Leary, Fearne Cotton, Russell Howard, to name but a few), and somehow still finds time to make sexy bobble earrings for charity. She also just ran her first half-marathon, despite making no secret of the fact that she HATES running, so it goes without saying she’s a bit of a ledge.

2. Vicky Pattinson and Chloe Madeley are doing it

About those celebrity backers I mentioned… well, I was umming and ahhing over whether I could really raise almost £3,000 for charity, but when CoppaFeel! announced this lovely pair would be joining us on the trip, the deal was well and truly sealed.

I’ve never watched Geordie Shore (honest), but Vicky was an absolute legend on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! last year so I’ll be damned if I’m going to pass up an opportunity to become her new BFF. (Yes, I’ll do my best to get the goss on Spenny, and yes, I’ll happily do my Geordie accent/Cheryl Cole impression in exchange for sponsorship).

3. Exercise makes me feel alive

Almost exactly three years ago, I finished chemotherapy and went back to work while I started radiotherapy. People in the office assumed I was cured and congratulated me on reaching “the final straight”. But with cancer, there is no “final straight” – it’s something that affects you for the rest of your life, and the fear of re-diagnosis never goes away.

People expected me to be fine, but in fact the End Of Treatment was the hardest part for me. There were no more doctors looking over me, no more weekly checks, and suddenly I was expected to return to life as ‘normal’. But when I got home in the evening and took off my wig and drawn-on eyebrows, I looked more like a cancer patient than ever.

Around this time, I got a call from my old friend, Running. He placed my trainers on the ground in front of me and re-introduced me to his best mate, Endorphins. I put on some thermal tops, my chemo beanie and a woolly hat, and the three of us (Me, Running and Endorphins) headed out in -5ºC and pounded the pavements for a good 15 minutes. A few days later, we did it again, and suddenly I didn’t feel quite so much like a cancer patient.

It’s been three years now and that rush of endorphins has never lost its appeal, so I can’t wait for the challenge of Iceland. The thing is, cancer is a marathon. You have to be positive to get through it. You’ll probably start feeling a lot of pain around mile 20, but you know if you reach the finish line, you’ll feel so elated, so full of joy and pride and sense of achievement, that it’ll all be worth it. You’ll feel more alive than ever before. And then you may be asked to run it again. But you’ll do it, because you have to.

Quitting is not an option. So I guess I’ll just keep running.

Even if I look like this…

4. I’ve never been to Iceland

Going through chemo in the summer of 2012, I spent much of my time scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, green-eyed with envy over pictures of my friends sipping fresh coconut water, exposing their tanned hot dog legs and eating the finest food. I wrote a list of all the places I would visit when the doctor okayed me to fly, and fortunately I’ve already ticked off quite a few, but there’s so much of the world still to see.

Iceland is one of those magical places I’ve always hoped to visit, and what better way to see such a marvellous country than on a trek? I’ll be sure to send you a postcard.

5. I don’t want anyone to have to go through what Kris is going through

Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 29 years old, I was misdiagnosed a number of times. I found a lump and had it tested straight away, but I was told by several different doctors that because of my age it was unlikely to be cancer. It was only because of my family and friends’ insistence that I went back and got that final test that diagnosed me, and fortunately I’m now almost four years in remission.

Some young women – like Kris – aren’t so lucky, which is why she set up a charity aiming to stamp out diagnosis of secondary cancer due to late detection. CoppaFeel!’s small army of Boobettes – myself included – go to schools, unis and festivals around the UK to teach young men and women to get to know their bodies. It does what it says on the tin – if you regularly cop a feel, you’ll recognise when something’s different, and you’ll get it checked out.

CoppaFeel! can’t cure cancer, but they believe if young men and women are educated to get to know their bodies and recognise when something is wrong, they might be able to prevent anyone else being diagnosed at the terminal stage. They have already saved many lives in this way, and they need money to continue their life-saving work.

What are you waiting for? Go CoppaFeel!

@fakeliampayne & @louist91 showing the guys how it's done #CheckEmTuesday

A post shared by CoppaFeel! (@coppafeelpeople) on

 

Please sponsor me here: Pricey treks Iceland 2016

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IMG_2644Why do I always pick the hottest, sunniest days for these things?

Anyway, I did it: The Royal Parks Half Marathon in 2 hours 13 mins 1 second. That’s only 12 minutes behind my pre-cancer, pre-chemo, pre-radiotherapy record, so it’s fair to say I’m pretty chuffed.

What an amazing day.

A huge, huge thank you to my running buddy, Karen, to all who came along to watch and cheer (particularly Mum, Sarah and Dan, and Sophie), to the men dressed as giant squirrels who served as my pacemakers throughout, and to all you very generous people who have sponsored us. We’ve raised almost £2,000 for Coppafeel!

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IMG_4701

What I looked like when I started running again back in Feb

Six months ago, I foolishly signed up for the Royal Parks Half Marathon, thinking I’d be right as rain by October and not quite realising just how long it takes to regain full fitness after one surgery, six months of chemo and 33 rounds of radiotherapy. Add to that the effects of a scorching British summer, a month travelling around hot, sweaty Asia and a week of extreme jetlag and flu, and you can probably imagine I’m not doing very well with my training.

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IMG_0147It was inevitable the Race for Life – my first competitive run since before diagnosis – would fall on one of the hottest days of the year. I signed up in February, back when I imagined I’d be running 10ks effortlessly by July, with a view to improving my fitness while raising money for Cancer Research.

It was only in mid-June that I realised it was going to take me a lot more than just four months after radiotherapy to actually be able to effortlessly do anything and, secondly, that I am much less tolerant of the heat than I was a year ago. Still, I figured I could handle it.

IMG_0152Fast forward to 14th July 2013 and I am running along with thousands of other brave, sweaty and slightly crazy women in Hyde Park under a blazing hot sun, panting and feeling like I’m about to pass out, while thinking “Jesus, what exactly possessed me to sign up for this?!”

Still, I crossed the finish line in an hour and six minutes, hot, sweaty, feeling rather pukey and with what I am pretty certain was a mild case of heatstroke that lasted several days afterwards. (Not sunburn, though, I hasten to add – I was covered from head to toe with factor 50).

IMG_0148It was all worth it, though, and I had a tear in my eye pretty much all the way round from reading all the messages to loved ones on the runners’ backs, including some of my friends, who were running for me. When you’re just about to give up and thinking you can’t keep running, there’s nothing like a note “In memory of my amazing Mum/sister/Dad/grandad” to bring you right back down to earth and make you keep going. So congratulations and thank you to all the women who ran that day, including my very speedy girlfriends!

IMG_0143The two groups organised by Stylist magazine (who kindly provided us with Hummingbird Bakery cupcakes after the event) raised almost £3,000, but if you’d like to help us hit that big round 3k, please click the link below and sponsor us: http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/team-stylist-10

A huge thank you to all who have donated us so far!

Tying in rather nicely with the Race for Life is Cancer Research’s new campaign, Beat Cancer Sooner, or for the hashtaggers among you, #beatcancersooner. It’s an initiative to reach 1 million actions against cancer, and they want as many of us as possible to get involved to help bring forward the day all cancers are cured.

1MAC_140How can you help?

There’s loads of ways to get involved, from fundraising to volunteering, to sharing info about cancer and campaigns on social media. For those of you who love gadgets, games or a bit of science, you can even go to the Cell Slider website and have a go at classifying some cancer cells – you can actually help Cancer Research by doing this. And please, please send out a tweet or Facebook post about #beatcancersooner – the more people we can reach through this campaign, the closer we’ll one day be to a world where nobody’s brother, sister, mother, father, best friend or partner has to die of cancer.

It’s actually thanks to Cancer Research UK that I’m alive today. So, to anybody who has ever said to me “Anything I can do to help, please let me know,” now is the time.

There are some really simple ways to help, so please just click this link and see what you can do. Thank you!ISUPP_2048SQ

20130706-165455.jpgThis week I gave my first breast cancer awareness talk to a class of young women at Notre Dame school in south London. It was my first experience as one of the ‘Boobettes,’ a group of young women who’ve all had breast cancer or some kind of scare and who are now helping Coppafeel! spread the message to boys and girls around the UK to check their boobs.

I did the presentation with Jo, a fellow breast cancer survivor who had the disease at the remarkably young age of 21 and who is doing fabulously now, 15 years later. I talked about my personal experience while Jo talked more about the charity. The teenage girls were very receptive and asked everything from “Do you sometimes have to have your boob chopped off?” to “Are you going to be able to have children?” Ah, life’s big questions! Let’s just say I got a proper grilling, but I didn’t mind.

image (2)Here I am, coppin’ a feel, and above with Jo, Coppafeel!’s Maren and a giant boob.

The next day, I got some results back from a blood test I’d had earlier in the week at my local doctors. It was my first blood test since December, and I was quite alarmed to discover that my blood counts have not returned to normal since finishing chemotherapy. My white blood cells, neutrophils and lymphocytes are still lower than they should be, meaning my immune system hasn’t returned to normal and I’m not quite the strong ox I thought I was. There’s nothing I can do to raise the blood counts, but my GP is writing to my oncologist to see if anything needs to be done. Given that I haven’t had so much as a cold since before Christmas, I thought my immune system must be pretty strong, but maybe I’ve just been lucky.

image (3)Meanwhile, my hair has been growing pretty nicely and is starting to look a bit like my Dad’s. If I don’t comb it down when I get out the shower, it sticks up hedgehog-style, so here’s a pic of me post-shower and au naturel, with Pricey Senior. Also note my make-up-less eyebrows, which are still a shadow of their former selves but slowly, slowly getting there. (The eyelashes, on the other hand, are pretty much back to their pre-chemo state).

This morning I did my final bit of training for the 10k Race for Life I’m doing in London next Sunday (14th July). I practically killed myself running up and down the hills of Yorkshire in 25C heat today and I haven’t managed to run 10k in less than an hour yet, but I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. If you’d like to sponsor me and Team Stylist 10 to raise money for the all-important life-saving charity that is Cancer Research UK, please click here.

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Finally, I thought you might like to see this picture of me after my first post-treatment 3k run (in the snow) in February, vs. my third 10k run (in the boiling sunshine) today. Evidentally I’m not looking quite so much like a cancer patient these days. Cancer, we’re coming to get you!

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