Gran to do Race for Life after battling cancer three times

Kim BriscoeA Norfolk grandmother who has battled three different types of cancer is calling on local women to join her in Norwich Race for Life.Kim Briscoe

A Norfolk grandmother who has battled three different types of cancer is calling on local women to join her in Norwich Race for Life.

Barbara Alexander has spent a lifetime dealing with the disease, having been diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 28, breast cancer at 62, and ovarian cancer at 68.

The plucky 69-year-old is taking part in Cancer Research UK's 5k event at Norfolk Showground on Sunday, May 2, alongside her two daughters and two granddaughters.

Spaces are still available for the Norwich events on Saturday, May 1, and Sunday afternoon May 2, but entries close at midnight on Thursday April 29, so Barbara is anxious to see as many women as possible swell the ranks and help hit a fundraising target of �809,000 for the fight against cancer.

Barbara, a retired farmer and childminder from Mundham, first had her world turned upside down by cancer when she was a young mum of 28. She was shocked to discover she had thyroid cancer after going to the doctor with a sore throat, weight loss and extreme restlessness.

After having surgery to remove the tumour and her thyroid gland, Barbara had three weeks of therapy with radioactive iodine - a treatment which meant complete isolation in a lead-lined room.

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The treatment worked, though she still takes medication for an underactive thyroid and has annual check-ups.

In May 2002 Barbara experienced soreness in her breast, but a mammogram came back clear. The soreness continued, and Barbara noticed a lump. She was investigated again and diagnosed with breast cancer.

After a lumpectomy at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Barbara was treated with radiotherapy. She was given the 'all clear' from breast cancer in 2007.

But in May 2008 Barbara was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, after noticing she needed to pass urine more frequently than usual.

She had surgery at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, followed by chemotherapy. She is now being monitored every three months.

Barbara said: 'I've battled cancer three times and I'm nearly 70. If I can do Race for Life, anyone can.

'It was when I was sitting in the waiting room before my latest surgery that I noticed a poster for Race for Life. I vowed to myself that I would beat the ovarian cancer and would do Race for Life in two years time.

'I'm really looking forward to the day. My daughters Dawn and Gillian, and my granddaughters Sophie (17) and Louise (15) are doing it with me, so it's going to be a really special event.

'It has become clear over the years that my cancer may well be genetic, and the doctors are currently looking into that. I lost all three of my sisters, Peggy, Enid and Stella, to breast cancer, so obviously it is very important that we find out if there is a genetic link, for the benefit of the rest of the family.'

Cancer Research UK's Race for Life 2010 is the UK's largest women-only fundraising event series where all the money raised goes to fund the charity's life-saving work.

All women are welcome, regardless of whether they are taking part on their own or as part of a group.

In 2009, 12,074 women took part in Race for Life in Norwich and helped raise �761,135.

This year, Cancer Research UK is encouraging 12,700 women to take part in the event at Norfolk Showground and hit a fundraising target of �809,000.

Women in Norfolk can enter Cancer Research UK's Race for Life at or by calling 0871 641 1111.

Do you have a story for the Evening News? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email