A BEST friend’s battle with cervical cancer has inspires a young woman to take part in Birkenhead’s Race for Life.
Kelly Owens, 24, a sales assistant at jewellers Warren James in The Grange and Pyramids Shopping Centre, will be running the Birkenhead Park 5k race on July 15 in support of her close friend and colleague Claire Hogan.
Claire, 28, a mum-of-two, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in November last year and less than two months later, she had a hysterectomy to ensure she beat the terrible disease.
For Claire, who is mum to Ethan, six, and Evie, two, it was a devastating dilemma which looks to have dashed her long felt desire to have a large family.
The former nursery nurse, who has worked at The Grange’s Warren James store for five and a half years, said: “I took it as a given that I would have a large family and it was something I always wanted because I love being a mum.
“But now I just have to deal with the fact I will never be able to carry another baby and it is a constant reminder of having cancer which has been absolutely terrifying.
“My mum was with me when I was recalled to the hospital following an operation to remove cancerous cells under a general anaesthetic because they were too large to remove under a local.
“I remember going into the room to see the doctor and I was introduced to an oncology nurse and I just thought straight away, ‘Oh God it’s cancer’.
“When they told me, I just burst into tears and the first thing I said to my mum was ‘will you look after my children?’ and she was just comforting me.
“My Dad was waiting for us in the car outside with Evie but he said as soon as he saw my mum’s face he knew something was wrong.
“When we got home, he just burst into tears but being my Dad, he just told me everything was going to be ok and I was going to be fine. The impact of the news on my whole family and friends was just terrible.”
Claire, who lives in Prenton, is recovering well from her major operation in early January and is now receiving four monthly check ups with her latest tests coming through with the all clear.
She is receiving counselling to help her come to terms with what has happened and said she could never have got through it without the support of her family and friends like Kelly.
She said: “It is a lovely thing which Kelly is doing for me and I would have liked to have done Race For Life with her but unfortunately I am away until very late the night before the event but I am hoping to be there to cheer her on.
“We have become very close, not only working together at Warren James but she has seen what I have been through and supported me every step of the way.
“All my colleagues have been great, even organising presents for me when I came back to work after the operation which was lovely after everything I had been through.”
Derek Millar, Commercial Director for The Grange and Pyramids Shopping Centre, said: “It is heart warming to hear about Kelly’s support of her friend Claire and reflects the many fine teams of people we have working at the shopping centre.
“I wish Claire every best wish with continuing to recover from her ordeal and good luck to Kelly for the Race For Life. They obviously have a fantastic friendship.”
Kelly, from Upton, said: “Claire has always tried very hard to put a brave face on against having cancer but I know not being able to have any more children has been really tough on her.
“We have become really close friends – we get on really well and just understand one another.
“I wanted to do the Race For Life in support of her and how brave she has been, but also to raise awareness about cervical cancer and tell more young women to go and have their smear tests. I know me and Claire have talked to our friends and colleagues about it and told them to make sure they go and have a check up.
“It is still really surreal when you look back and think about what has happened to Claire at such a young age but she has dealt with it so well and I will be feeling really proud of her on the day at the race.”
Around 2,800 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK each year and the disease is usually caused by a common infection called the human papilloma virus (HPV).
Most women who have HPV will not get cervical cancer and having regular cervical screening is the most effective way to prevent it.
Reality television star and mum to two little boys, Jade Goody, died from cervical cancer aged just 27 in March 2009 and her tragic death sparked major awareness of the disease.
Claire too hopes that by talking about her own experiences it will prompt other young women to go for a test.
She said: “I think women can put off going because they think it is going to really hurt or they feel a bit embarrassed but they mustn’t and they must go and get checked because I am proof that it can save your life and I am so very grateful for that.”
Kelly hopes to raise £250 by completing the Race For Life in aid of Cancer Research UK. To sponsor her, call in to Warren James in The Grange and Pyramids Shopping Centre or go to www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/kellyowens1