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Lesley steps forward in memory of 50 year friendship

31 May 2017

Lesley Parham (60), from Shepton Mallet in Somerset is taking on her own version of the ‘Walk all over Cancer’ fundraising campaign by walking 10,000 steps every day throughout June.

esley's 30-day fundraiser for PCRF is a tribute to her best friend of 50 years, Gwen Robinson, who died of pancreatic cancer in March. 

“I met Gwen at school when I was 10, when we’d moved to Wales from Kent. I couldn’t speak Welsh and she took me under her wing, and we’d been friends ever since. Even when we both moved away from Wales and our lives took different paths – I went into retail and she became a midwife - we saw each other as much as possible, and in between times spent hours and hours talking on the phone. She was one of those special people who I thought was going to be in my life for ever. She came to every birthday party, christening and weddings over the years – she was family.

“At work we’ve fundraised for PCRF before when we lost our colleague, Linda Savill, to pancreatic cancer and my husband’s father died of disease too, so when Gwen was diagnosed last July I didn’t want to believe it,” Lesley says. “To say we are devastated by her loss doesn’t come close.”

As a department store manager for Edinburgh Woollen Mill looking after three big, busy departments, Lesley is on her feet all day, and worked out that she does at least 7,000 steps each day at work. But her 10,000 steps challenge will be on top of this.  “It would feel like cheating to include what I do at work, plus I really want to challenge myself! Ten thousand steps is around 5 miles, I’ve mapped out lots of different routes: it’s so beautiful around here that I can’t wait to start discovering new places as I go,” she says.

Several departments within Haskins Retail Centre are supporting Lesley every step of the way, with Millets donating a pair of walking boots, Regatta giving her a raincoat, just in case the weather is unkind. “I’m hoping I won’t need that in June,” says Lesley, “but you never know!”

Lesley in training (credit: Kelly J Davies)

Colleagues in shops around the country will also help with fundraising, either by organising their own walks or by holding their own fundraising events. 

“Funding more research is the only way we’ll make progress with pancreatic cancer and I’m so proud that my work colleagues are helping to do that. This is such a terrible disease. It took my father-in-law in 6 weeks. Gwen had 9 months, and even that is a shockingly short time,” says Lesley.

“Gwen was someone who everyone warmed to instantly; she was funny and kind, with a lovely sense of humour. Even after her diagnosis, her attitude was so positive, she was inspirational. She had everything in order, including planning her own funeral and marrying Mike, her partner of 25 years. It was a real privilege to be her friend and I’m proud to be taking on this challenge in her memory.”

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