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8th April 2019

Stephanie France

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There are many reasons why people take on a fundraising challenge for us. Stephanie France has two and she used both as her motivation when tackling the most famous run of all – the London Marathon.

“My mum, Rosemary, was an incredible woman. A former nurse and midwife, she gave up her career to raise her four children and support my dad, who was working as a GP. As we grew up, she started volunteering. She wanted to ensure she was still giving back to her community.

She started volunteering in Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation’s Frodsham shop in May 2003 with her good friend, Mary. We had no family history of lung cancer. Mum volunteered there because it was close but also because of the manager, Yvonne. They shared the same work ethic!

Mum loved meeting new people and had a good laugh in the shop. She also loved a good bargain. I’m pretty sure the shop made more money when she was in because she would always buy something!

A cruel twist of fate

In 2013, mum’s health began to deteriorate. She had several heart attacks as well as suffering from osteoporosis. She was tough lady though and always got back on her feet and back to the shop. Dad supported her all the way, alongside his own volunteering work at Leighton Hospital.

It was no surprise then that Dad began to lose weight and felt tired. We put it down to him looking after mum. However, when he started to feel breathless, he went to his GP.

He had atrial fibrillation, a disordered heart rate. We now know that this is associated with lung cancer. However, at the time, the cardiologist did not suspect it because Dad was a non-smoker and so treated it as heart failure instead.

Just before Christmas 2016 he was short of breath again and was taken to A&E. He had a chest X-ray and that was then we learnt the truth.

We were all shocked. Even with mum volunteering at the Roy Castle shop, we didn’t piece together the symptoms. I now understand how subtle lung cancer symptoms can be.

The symptoms of lung cancer can be hard to spot.

Dad died very quickly, just three weeks after his diagnosis. Mum was at a loss and very soon her health deteriorated too. We ended up losing them both within five months of each other.

Giving back

Losing them both in such a short space of time was so hard so I decided I needed something to focus on.

I wanted to do something that celebrated life and, in the spirit of my parents, give something back. I had run the London Marathon before, with Mum and Dad cheering me on all the way, but that was 20 years ago. It would be a whole new challenge to take it on again.

The fundraising team have been so supportive, even sending a personalised Christmas card. They sent loads of easy-to-do fundraising ideas. I did a tuck shop at work, with all profits going towards my total. I would never had thought of that without them and it was a huge hit!

I miss my parents immensely. I miss taking Mum shopping every Friday. I miss hearing Dad laughing at my husband’s jokes. I miss watching them listen so intently to their grandchildren. But it feels really good to have done this in their honour. Together, we’ve all given something back.”