Brave Darcey joins cancer survivors and relatives in Relay for Life


FIRST to complete a lap was five-year-old cancer survivor Darcey Ince.

With her golden locks all grown back, the young girl from Allestree reached the finish line clutching a banner that read: "Survivors – Celebrating Life".

At Darcey's side was her twin brother, Harrison, and looking on were their parents, Sean, 44, and Samantha, 40, who struggled to keep back tears.

Gathered next to and behind Darcey and Harrison were men, women, pensioners and teenagers who have also beaten cancer.

They wore maroon-coloured "survivor" T-shirts and fittingly began the 24-hour Relay for Life event at Moorways.

Then, for the remaining 23 hours and 55 minutes, up to 300 others joined in – each with their own personal reasons for taking part.

Throughout the annual fund-raising event, from 11am on Saturday through to 11am yesterday, the Moorways track was a sea of inspirational people. But none more so than little Darcey.

The brave girl will never remember the day doctors diagnosed her with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. She was only two years old.

But she will always bear the horrible memories of being stuck in a hospital bed feeling ill, knowing others her age were playing freely at playgroup and at school.

For some children fighting cancer, there is no fairytale ending – and they were all poignantly remembered.

But thankfully for Darcey and her family, a happy ending is in sight.

A little over four weeks ago, doctors delivered the news Darcey was "totally" in remission, following more almost three years of treatment.

It gave parents Sean and Samantha, from St Edmund's Close, the clearest hope yet that the most scariest and prolonged years of their lives was coming to an end.

Sean, who spent some time hugging and kissing his twins after they completed their lap, said: "The past few years have been pretty hellish.

"Darcey was just two and three-quarters years old when she was diagnosed.

"It's all she has known and for us as her parents it just meant our whole world falling apart.

"She had a line attached to her since day one to administer the drugs she's needed and that was only removed two weeks ago.

"She's had to miss a lot of school because she's been in hospital and she's been incredibly brave. We couldn't be prouder of her.

"Both she and Harrison are very excited to be here today. They know the significance of being a survivor and showing it can be beaten."

Mum Samantha said: "There was a time we thought we were never going to get to the end of it all. Today means so much."

In Relay for Life, people in teams take it in turns to run, jog or walk around the circuit, over a 24-hour period.

This year's event raised about £30,000 for Cancer Research UK.

It was started by the Relay for Life co-chairman Matt Hughes, who said: "Today we are here to celebrate the lives of cancer survivors, to support those fighting cancer and to honour those we have lost.

"Our commitment will be symbolised in every step we take; each and every one moving us closer to our goal of a cancer-free world for future generations."

Music blared around the stadium to spur on those taking part, with songs including Proud, 500 Miles and You'll Never Walk Alone.

Among those taking part – with team new Arrival – was 20-year-old Lewis Aldridge, whose mother, Liz, established the event seven years ago.

Sadly, Liz lost her battle with breast cancer five years ago.

Lewis, who lives in Derby city centre, said: "Mum would be really proud of what the organising committee has done since she left us. She'd be really pleased they've carried the event on."

Teenager Nathan Wheatley, of Bingham Street, Allenton, also took part in honour of his mum, who thankfully beat cervical cancer.

The 19-year-old said: "I was in year four at school when she was diagnosed.

"It was a shock but she got through it with treatment. It's not just about the survivors, it's also about remembering who we have lost."

For Dave Parkes, of Burns Close, Littleover, it was a day of celebration. He turns 50 today and his family had been planning to throw him a party over the weekend.

But when he discovered it would clash with Relay for Life, Dave decided to celebrate his landmark birthday by taking part in the relay.

"It's a bigger garden here," he joked.

Elsewhere, about 20 players and coaches from Mackworth St Francis Women's Football Club took part, as Goals Aloud.

Manager Guy Oldham said: "Many of the girls have been affected by cancer in some way, as have most people.

"This is the fourth year we've taken part. It's a good way for us to get together and do something good."

Jon Tordoff, 44, of Duffield, was the sole member of team On Yer Tod and walked the entire 24 hours, apart from comfort breaks.

Mr Tordoff, whose mother, Margaret, died at the age of 66 from ovarian cancer, said: "It's great. Everyone's really friendly and it's good to see the various teams taking part.

"I think I need to learn the definition of 'relay'!"

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