After surviving cancer at just 27, Leigh takes on Race for Life

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WOMEN and girls of all ages, shapes and sizes are needed to join forces for the Harrogate Race for Life on the Stray.

Taking place on the morning of Sunday, May 20 on the Stray for the first time, the Race for Life is open to all women who can walk, jog or run the 5km route.

It raises money for Cancer Research UK, which raises millions of pounds every year through similar events around the country, paying for life-saving research into 200 types of cancer.

Last year, more than 2,700 women took part in the Race for Life at its previous home of the Great Yorkshire Showground, raising more than £140,000. Organisers are hoping to achieve a similar turnout - and similar fundraising - with this year’s event.

Despite its name, the Race for Life is not competitive and people taking part can go at their own pace while also enjoying the atmosphere on the day.

For more information, visit www.raceforlife.org or call 0871 641 1111.

Leigh Naylor’s story

Leigh was diagnosed with cervical cancer on December 4, 2009, aged 27.

It took several months to diagnose Leigh with cancer and the diagnosis was mainly down to her perseverance, as her cancer was not diagnosed for several months. She kept getting treated for the symptoms she was experiencing, but the cause was never investigated.

When she was finally diagnosed, Leigh, an acquisitions consultant who lives in Ripon, was told she had stage three cancer - stage four being the worst - because her tumour was large, at 4cm.

She said: “It was the last thing I thougth it would be.

“I had gone to have surgery to remove that they thought was a polyp. They started talking about a tumour and I just didn’t know what that meant.

“It didn’t enter my head it could be cancer.

“Because I had had so many tests, in my head cancer had been ruled out. I was lead to believe that was one of the things that had been checked.”

Leigh underwent chemotherapy for five weeks on a weekly basis, while also having radiotherapy on a daily basis for five weeks at St James’s Hospital in Leeds.

She had been married for seven years when she was diagnosed and her husband was a big support to her during her treatment.

She had the latest of her three-monthly check-ups in mid-February and was told she was still all clear. The date marked two years to the day since she completed her treatment.

However, this month she was told she had colitis, possibly brought on by the radiotherapy she had, which means more trips to the hospital and regular checks for bowel cancer.

“I’m not a sickly person at all and it’s just one thing after another,” she said.

“I just hate going to the hospital and now I have to go back regularly.”

Despite the news, Leigh is determined to take part in the Race for Life again this year. It will be the third time she has completed the event and, as last year, she plans to be at the Race for Life in both Harrogate and York, volunteering at one and taking part in the other.

She said: “I’m quite good at blackmailing people so I’ll get some of my friends to volunteer too!

“I didn’t think about doing it until I’d had cancer but since then, because of the treatment and the good work the charity does, I wanted to do everything I could to help.

“I want to raise as much money as I possibly can - the research could help me again in the future, or my family or friends.

“It also helps to raise awareness. I’ve had cancer and a lot of people think, ‘if she’s got it, I could potentially get it as well’.”

Leigh said the Race for Life is always full of emotion for everyone involved, with many wearing the names of loved ones who have lost their lives to cancer.

“It makes you think about everything that’s happened,” said Leigh.

“Because I’m two years down the line, I find myself for the first time in a long time going through a day without thinking about cancer and feeling well.

“This year, since January, has been the first time in over two years when I haven’t felt like crap every single day.

“When we go to the Race for Life, it really beinrgs back what’s happened. It makes me feel that I want to do things with my life.

“Life is too short and you never know when it’s going to end.”