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12th March 2021

Vanessa’s fundraising story

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Rosie Ball was many things, bartender, supervisor, bakery manager, a whizz with numbers. Her finest role however, was being a mum and grandmother. She loved it so much that she went on to be a foster carer until her lung cancer diagnosis in 2010.

Her daughter, Vanessa, is celebrating a very special birthday this year; she will be turning 40 in June. Sadly, a week later, it will also be the 10-year anniversary since losing her mum to lung cancer. Vanessa decided to mark such a significant anniversary in a very special way and so will be running her very first marathon.

“Mum didn’t like to have an empty nest. Her whole life was dedicated to bringing my sister Sarah and I up, and then looking after her grandchildren.

After Sarah and I moved out, she became a foster carer which suited her down to the ground. She was so loving, kind and generous and always liked having children in the home.

When my daughter, Sophia, was born, Mum fell in love with her instantly. She called Sophia her little Guardian Angel. We hadn’t received Mum’s lung cancer diagnosis at this time but looking back, she was extremely unwell.

Mum had been a huge part of my sister’s eldest children’s lives and we thought she would be the same for my daughter and niece. But unfortunately, just five months after Sophia was born, mum was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Rosie and Vanessa, Rosie and one of her grandchildren

Mum had a cough for some time, and she was prone to repeat chest infections, but we thought that was just because she smoked. But then we noticed she was losing a lot of weight, so the doctor referred her on for tests.

After several weeks, we got the devastating diagnosis of advanced stage lung cancer. She was only 54 at the time. Mum felt incredibly guilty that she had to stop foster caring, but she was just too unwell by this point. After a heart-breaking 10 months, Mum died on 1st July 2011 with my dad,  Sarah and I by her side.

Last year, a friend started posting on social media about Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation’s Retro Runs. As it was for a lung cancer charity I just had to get involved, plus the runs gave me such motivation to keep active over lockdown.

My Marathon in memory of Mum

On New Year’s Eve, I was thinking about Mum and the fact it is the 10-year anniversary of losing her in July 2021, which is a week after my 40th birthday. I really wanted to mark such a significant anniversary with something to make mum proud. So, on the 26th of June 2021, I will be running my very first Virtual Marathon. I have been a runner for most of my adult life, but never done a marathon so this felt like the perfect opportunity.

I have reached 14 miles in training and I have plenty of time to get more training done to get the miles in! I have a great group of friends who are helping me train, giving me marathon advice and, all being well with Covid restrictions, they will be running sections of the course with me! 

The route I have planned starts from my house (which was my childhood home) and goes through Bognor Regis and Pagham – which is where my mum and dad grew up and met – so it will be an emotional route, filled with really special memories of Mum.

The face of lung cancer has changed a lot in those 10 years since we lost Mum. There are more treatment options, support services, and research being done by charities like Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

But people still need to be more aware of the symptoms of lung cancer. I wish we’d have found out about Mum’s diagnosis sooner; we might then have had more time together. This is why I’m supporting Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation in my fundraising. They are doing everything they can to spread the awareness of lung cancer symptoms so that hopefully, fewer people will have to go through what we did.”

To keep up with Vanessa’s fundraising and to donate, visit her Virgin Money page.