When Caroline Fox received a phone call asking her to come to hospital at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, she knew it couldn’t be good news.
The 44-year-old from Brixton Hill was waiting for test results after finding a lump on her breast.
“To get a call to come in the next day, in the middle of the pandemic, I pretty much worked out what the results would be,” she said.
“I went for a long walk in the park to clear my head. That was the worst time for me but once I went in to get the results, I’d almost come to accept the fact I would be getting a cancer diagnosis.”
Caroline, who is head of marketing for a distillery, was told in April last year that she had an aggressive Grade three tumour that was HER-2 positive, meaning she needed chemotherapy and surgery followed by radiotherapy.
“When they told me, I didn’t cry or get emotional because I’d had that time to walk and think,” she said.
“But where I was diagnosed just a few days into lockdown I was worried my treatment would be delayed by Covid. Luckily it wasn’t impacted at all.”
With months of treatment ahead of her, Caroline decided to set herself a goal to retain her mental and physical health.
A keen cyclist, having ridden from Lands End to John O’ Groats where she met her firefighter partner, Simon, Caroline signed herself up to Cancer Research UK’s Cycle 300 challenge.
She said: “This challenge came at the perfect time as I wasn’t going anywhere because of Covid and had already set up a mini gym in the flat, including stationary bikes.
“I was having weekly chemo as well as working a five-day week, so I planned to have some cycle free days if I didn’t feel well enough. I started on 12 miles a day but cycled all 30 days and my daily tally edged up.”
Caroline soon surpassed 300 miles and completed a staggering 500 miles in total.
She enlisted a team of 23 friends to join her and between them they raised more than £21,110 for Cancer Research UK.
“There was such a brilliant team spirit, everybody went above and beyond,” she said.
“The challenge gave me a massive boost during my treatment and I was just blown away by the fact we far exceeded my target of £500.
“My experience means I understand the importance of Cancer Research UK’s work all too clearly.
“The type of tumour I had has received a lot of research over the last 10 years. As such my treatment plan has been greatly enhanced thanks to the efforts of Cancer Research UK.”
Knowing what a difference fundraising can make, she’s now encouraging others to take part in this year’s Cycle 300 challenge to help people like her beat cancer.
Participants are asked to raise sponsorship to cycle 300 miles during September either by themselves or in a team.
They can choose how, when and where they complete the challenge – whether it’s 10 miles every day, 75 miles every weekend or all in one go.
It can also incorporate distances accrued during a cycle to work, a spin class or even a stationary bike at home like Caroline’s.
Lynn Daly, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for London, said: “We are very grateful to Caroline for her support and hope it will start a chain-reaction, sparking the interest of cyclists of all ages and abilities. 1 in 2 of us will get cancer in our lifetime, but all of us can play a part to help beat it.
“This past year proves, more than any other, the value of investing in science and medical research, and what can be achieved together. Just like science is our route out of the pandemic, science is our route to beating cancer.
“The progress we make relies on every hour of research, every pound raised and everyone who gets involved. That’s why we need people to sign up to Cycle 300 and help us go miles further in the fight against the disease.”
You can sign up now at cruk.org/cycle300
Pictured: Caroline Fox, copyright CRUK