Relay for Life 2015

THE cancer survivors who started this year's Derby Relay For Life 24-hour event all have stories about the against the illness.

Among them at Moorways Stadium this weekend was Joe Suckling, who has found himself fighting lung cancer twice in the past nine years.

Mr Suckling, who was first diagnosed with the disease in 2008 but responded well to treatment, discovered it had returned in 2014. He has since had an operation, which resulted in him missing the last year.

On Saturday, Mr Suckling lined up with 450 other people – divided into teams of eight or more to take part, with at least one member of each team on the track between 11am on Saturday and 11am yesterday, either running, jogging or walking.

It was the 10th Derby Relay For Life event and was expected to raise £50,000 for Cancer Research UK – bringing the total for the decade of fund-raising to more than £400,000.

Mr Suckling, known as a "global hero of hope" for the Relay For Life charity, spends much of his time visiting other events and inspiring people to fund-raise – and has also appeared on television adverts for the charity.

He said: "Survivors should be shouting about their situation from the rooftops and be honoured to spread awareness."

Kathryn Simpson, 59, is the event chairman and was in the Littleover Midnight Runners team. She spoke movingly before the event began about some of the reasons she is involved in the charity.

She said: "Everyone is here for individual reasons. It makes me think of three people I knew who died of cancer – a sixth-former we had at Littleover Community School where I work, a friend who completed two relays and my own father, who died 25 years ago.

"There were more teams than ever this year, with 31 in total.

"Survivors of cancer did the first lap, called The Survivors' Lap, who walk or run with a guest if they like, and police cadets provided the guard of honour as everyone set off around the running track.

"After that, the survivors went to our large Rolls-Royce sponsored marquee for a lunch with their guest."

Research scientist Meike Vogler, from Leicester University, gave a talk to everyone about how the money from Cancer Research UK is being spent in laboratories across the country.

During the 24 hours, the event had a variety of themed laps, as well as plenty of side shows and activities for those not running and day-guests.

Kathryn said: "We had morris dancers at 1pm and a decorated cake competition in memory of Gail Pykitt. Gail's son organised it because she loved baking cakes and she also took part in the relay. She was with us from the start but she sadly lost her life last year.

"We also had tea, coffee and cake served in and on vintage china in the marquee.

"There was also a marching band on Saturday afternoon and vintage cars on the hillside to tie in with the theme."

Relay for Life started 30 years ago in America – the idea behind it being that cancer does not sleep.

Along with the entertainment, there were some serious moments – including on Saturday night at 10pm, when a candlelight ceremony took place.

Kathryn said: "It is always such a lovely dedication to those who have lost their lives, there was be a song sung and a poem recited."

Overnight, a catering van selling food and hot drinks kept people going and there were seats for people to relax on.

Kathryn said: "In the morning, we all sat there with our bacon cobs watching the sunrise, then there were lots of themed laps."

These included a beach lap, a Christmas lap, a Halloween lap, dance laps, a bad-hair lap, pyjama laps and Disney laps.

Kathryn added: "It was a lovely event for everyone to take part in. The weather was smashing, especially after the rain and storms of Friday night, which had gone by the time we started on Saturday, and we had a lovely evening for the candlelight ceremony.

"It will be a few weeks before we know the final total. Originally we thought it would be £40,000 but now we know it will be more than £50,000."

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