“After Rob’s passing, I vowed to raise as much money for Cancer Research UK as I possibly could.” | Debbie’s Story

Mary, Marion, Emma, Rob and Doug. These are the names of the people Debbie has lost to cancer. These are also the people she runs for, to support Cancer Research UK, and many miles have been covered in their memory.

Since 2011, six-time Cancer Research UK London Winter Run participant Debbie has thrown herself into running and fundraising. She has almost raised a staggering £165,000 for Cancer Research UK and her motivation, passion and running talent is truly inspirational.

Read Debbie’s story about how loss started a love of running here…


Cancer has affected my family in so many ways. My nan, Mary, and my mum, Marion, both survived breast cancer. Mum’s breast cancer was caught early, and she overcame it thanks to the treatment she received. It felt unspeakably cruel when, some years later, Mum was diagnosed with primary lung cancer that eventually spread to her brain. This was also around the same time that my boss, Emma, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Both mum and Emma went through quite invasive treatment, which was initially effective, however a year later Emma’s cancer returned, and my mum’s cancer spread to her other lung and to her brain. We lost Emma in February 2012 and mum died just seven weeks later.

Then, four weeks before I lost my mum, my brother Rob was diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer and was given just two to five years to live. He was only 48 when diagnosed. This was when I vowed to raise as much money for Cancer Research UK as I possibly could. Rob defied the odds and survived seven and a half years and I devastatingly lost him in August 2019. A year later, my uncle Doug died of prostate cancer. I know more than many that life can be cruel, and that cancer is merciless. But I also know that there is hope.

I started running in 2011 and ran my first marathon for Cancer Research UK in 2014. This was also when I obtained a Good for Age place. In total, I have run nine marathons, countless half marathons, five Cancer Research UK London Winter Runs and many other events for the charity. I am very proud to have run a personal best time at the 2023 London Winter Run in 43:56 – coming third in my age category of F55 (it’s amazing how achievements like this very often generate more donations!). The event is by far the best 10k course out there, and I am extremely proud to have raised nearly £165,000 for Cancer Research UK with my running and fundraising events.

Although running is a good way to channel grief and the other emotions caused by cancer, what also keeps me going is the motivation to help beat cancer. Research is so important. Without it, groundbreaking treatments like those that helped Rob survive longer would not be possible. Cancer Research UK wants to see in 3 in 4 people in the UK survive cancer by 2034 and I am very much behind that drive. Research and treatments require funding, which is why I take part in many events, including this one – to raise as much money as I can.

So, I can’t wait for the Cancer Research UK London Winter Run 2024. The event is superbly organised, from the bag drop at the start to all the cheering groups around the course. It’s very uplifting running with like-minded people, all aiming to raise as much money as possible for a cause close to our hearts. High fiving the winter characters around the course really helps with that too, and I look forward to speaking with other runners after the race and speaking with the volunteers.

Thank you for sharing your story, Debbie, and for your loyalty and support for our event. We hope to see you back every year!