Newtownabbey woman prepares for charity race to show ‘there is life after cancer’

A cancer survivor from Newtownabbey is set to Race for Life at Home and carry on the fight against the disease as Northern Ireland looks beyond lockdown.

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 2:31 pm

Jennifer Lau-Mason who is sevem years clear from a lung cancer diagnosis, will mark that milestone by taking part in a new virtual weekend this Spring.

She plans to raise funds for Cancer Research UK by completing her own Race for Life 5K, near her home, on Saturday, April 24. On that date she will join thousands of people from across the UK who have all vowed to take part in their own Race for Life at Home challenge that weekend, either alone or in small, socially distanced groups - but all on the same day- to help people with cancer.

People can visit raceforlife.org to enter Race for Life at Home for £5 then receive a Race pack which includes a medal. Money raised will help scientists find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, helping to save more lives. 

Jennifer Lau-Mason gets in some practice for the big weekend

Cancer Research UK is predicting a staggering £300 million drop in income caused by Covid-19 over the next three years which could put future medical breakthroughs at risk. All 400 mass-participation Race for Life events across the UK were cancelled last year to protect the country’s health during the pandemic. And events that were scheduled for this spring and early summer have also now been postponed. This includes the Race for Life 5K, which had been due to take place at Stormont in May.

But Jennifer knows exactly how vital it is to keep raising funds for life-saving research. She also knows first-hand the devastating impact the disease has on individuals and families, having been diagnosed with lung cancer in July 2013 at just 39 years of age.

“It may sound strange to say I am lucky,” said Jennifer, “but my cancer was diagnosed almost by accident.”

Jennifer had been treated for pneumonia in 2012 and when, one year later, she began to feel tired all the time, she had no idea it could be anything serious. However, when she developed a pain in her side a follow-up x-ray was done, which showed what was thought to be an abscess on her left lung.

Jennifer and Andrew on their wedding day.

“When I was given the news that it was actually a tumour, I felt my whole world was ending,” recalls Jennifer “ and when the consultant said surgery was not possible as it was too close to a main artery, I was devastated.

“My thoughts immediately turned to my seven-year-old son Ryan and I convinced myself I would not see Christmas.”

However on her next hospital visit Jennifer saw a different consultant, who felt surgery was possible and following chemotherapy treatment, she had surgery in November 2013 to remove her lung. She took a year away from her work in retail to help with the recovery period, which she found very difficult.

“It was a decision to return to work that helped pull me through.

“I had been with my partner Andrew since 2001 and it had always been my dream to marry, but we just kept putting it off,” added Jennifer. “But my cancer diagnosis made us realise life is too short. I felt I had been given a second chance, so we had a wonderful wedding in 2016.

“Research has helped save my life, so please support this campaign and give other families the chance to stay together longer.

“I want to give people hope. I am now over seven years clear – there is life after cancer.”

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, which has been in partnership with Tesco for 20 years, is an inspiring series of 3K, 5K, 10K, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids events which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer by funding crucial research.

Every hour someone in Northern Ireland is diagnosed with cancer and one in two people in the UK born after 1960 will get cancer in their lifetime. But the good news is more people are surviving the disease now than ever before. Cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress.

Jean Walsh, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson for Northern Ireland, said: “The truth is, Covid-19 has slowed us down.

“But we will never stop and we are absolutely determined to continue to create better cancer treatments for tomorrow.  Even though we have to Race for Life differently this spring, nothing is going to stop us running, walking or jogging to raise money to help beat cancer. We’d urge as many people as possible to join us this April and Race for Life at Home.

A live broadcast on the Cancer Research UK Race for Life Facebook and Race for Life Instagram pages on Saturday, April will include an energiser from a fitness expert as well as inspirational messages of support from people who have been through cancer.

Participants are then invited to run, walk or jog 5K. Organisers are also inviting participants to share photos and videos on social media using the hashtag #RaceatHome 

 To enter Race for Life at Home, visit raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770. Join in and share with #RaceatHome