Researching the cures


Heather takes on 50 at 50 in 2020

To mark her 50th birthday, fitness trainer Heather Lawson from Blackheath in London has embarked on an extraordinary year of 50 physical and fitness fundraising challenges in tribute to her father and uncle, both affected by pancreatic cancer.

Heather turned 50 in September 2019 and since starting her remarkable ‘50 at 50’ campaign, she has already completed 18 challenges, including ultra walks, half marathons & fire walking – and has over 20 more planned, including 24 hours on a treadmill, an abseil and a world record attempt on an indoor training bicycle.

2020 also includes two of her biggest challenges of all. On 28 February 2020, Heather will attempt a sub Arctic marathon, a gruelling ski trek completed over 2 days on trails in Abisko National Park in Sweden. As one of a group of only 20 people, Heather will carry all her own equipment & supplies, sleeping overnight in a mountain hut and once finished, will return to the airport by husky sledge.

“This will be one of the toughest challenges, but I hope it will also be the trip of a lifetime,” says Heather. “I’ll ride on a husky sledge, I may see the Northern Lights – plus before travelling home, we also stay in an ice hotel that’s rebuilt fresh every year and sleep on an ice bed!“

If the sub Arctic marathon is the coldest challenge, August will see her hottest, when Heather plans to complete one of the famous Camino De Santiago pilgrim treks, taking the 620km route across Portugal to Spain, something she’s always wanted to do.

Heather says of her epic year: “Sometimes in life you just get to that ‘why not’ moment, and for me, that was in the spring of 2019 when my uncle’s 6-month course of chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer failed to halt the disease and he was given a terminal diagnosis. I had already lost my father to this disease in 2006, so my uncle’s prognosis was doubly devastating. I decided I had to do my bit to help fund more research into this cruel disease.

“The scale of what I’d committed to doing hit me rather late in the day, when I realised that there are only 52 weeks in the year!” she says. “As some bigger physical challenges will involve a bit of recovery time, I’m mixing in other simpler – or weird – suggestions from friends and work colleagues. For example, I’m cutting out shop-bought coffee this year and putting the money saved into the fundraising total, and a friend has promised to donate if I wear a pink flamingo rubber ring for an entire day – that will make work and travel rather interesting!”

In addition to the challenges Heather is completing herself, she will also be organising a series of fundraising events, which she hopes will boost her fundraising target. In total, she hopes to raise £5,000 for Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, the national charity which funds cutting-edge research into the disease, and which is funding the development of a potential early detection test in urine, which would be the first in the world.

She says: “I still need a few more ideas to reach my target number, so I’d love to hear suggestions for other interesting or fun challenges I could do. Plus if anyone fancies any of the events I’ve listed at, they’re welcome to join me!”

Maggie Blanks, CEO of Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund said: “Even just reading Heather’s incredible list of challenges is exhausting and we can’t wait to see the photos from the sub Arctic challenge! We’re very proud and grateful that Heather has chosen to fundraise for us. The donations she inspires will help fund more world-class research that we hope will lead to new treatments for pancreatic cancer patients.”

If you’d like to donate to Heather’s fundraising you can do so here:

You can also follow Heather’s progress on her Instagram page

Around 10,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in the UK. It is highly aggressive and has the worst survival rate of any common cancer – only around 5 in 100 people will live 5 years or more beyond their diagnosis. Surgery to remove the tumour is currently the only potential cure, but as symptoms are often mistaken for less lethal conditions, most patients are diagnosed when the cancer has already spread to other organs.