Debbie Edwards is registered blind, has multiple sclerosis and is living with an incurable form of breast cancer, but the 36-year-old is not letting anything stop her from making every day count.
Despite still undergoing chemotherapy, Debbie is pulling her running shoes back on to raise funds for the Trinity Holistic Centre at The James Cook University Hospital.
Not only has she pledged to complete this year’s Great North Run with five friends (aka Debbie’s GNR Dollies) and guide runner (husband Gary), but she’s also organising her own 5k charity fun run which includes a stretch through Kirklevington Grange prison!
Described by her friends as “positive, courageous and inspirational”, Debbie of Stockton is no stranger to challenges.
She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 19, a condition which caused her sight to deteriorate so much that she was registered blind.
“As a visually impaired runner I have had to overcome so many barriers to be able to run,” said Debbie, who trained with five friends – Kirsten Baines, Helen Johnston, Sandra Stabler, Sue Russell and Jill Abel – to enable her to complete her first marathon in 2019.
Debbie’s cancer battle
Just two years later she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and given the devastating news that it was incurable.
“Naively I thought it would be a year of chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy and ringing the bell at treatment end,” she said.
“Some six months of chemotherapy, three surgeries and 15 rounds of radiotherapy later, little did I know that this time there would be no bell, and I was looking at treatment for the foreseeable.
“But I’ve stopped counting the days and now focus on making the days count and living my best life.”
Making the days count
For Debbie living her best life includes a return to running, spending time with granddaughter Ruby and appreciating the small things like getting up to take the dog for a walk.
She says the most difficult thing has been updating friends and family, especially as her mum, Sharan Sibley, recently celebrated five years all clear after beating breast cancer. She also lost her father-in-law to lymphoma quite suddenly in 2016 and three years ago her two step children also lost their mum to breast cancer.
Despite everything she is determined to stay positive.
“This is my new normal and cancer is just going to have to fit into my life,” she says as she writes her blog Just Another Challenge to raise awareness and keep everyone informed about her treatment.
Thank you Trinity Holistic Centre
Debbie is determined to raise as much as possible for the Trinity Holistic Centre which has supported her throughout her cancer treatment, providing complementary therapies and a place where she can go to “feel a little bit normal and a little bit calm”.
The Great North Run in September will be a huge mountain to climb as the chemotherapy leaves Debbie feeling tired and also affects the skin on her feet, but with the support of Debbie’s GNR Dollies and her husband she is determined to pace herself around the 13-mile course and make it happen.
Kathryn Almond, head of complementary therapy at Trinity Holistic Centre said: “We are all in awe of Debbie and her dollies – to tackle this challenge whilst going through cancer treatment is inspirational and means the world to us as a charity.
“It’s been a challenging few years financially due to the pandemic and so we are very grateful that in turn we can use the money raised to support the growing demand from other patients and families affected by cancer. We wish them all good luck for the day.”
5k entry details
The 5k has been made possible thanks to support from Muddy Roads, HMP Kirklevington and Stockton Striders AC. It takes place on 1 September at 6.30pm and the route is predominantly flat with a mix of trails and paths which take you in and around the prison grounds.
Debbie is encouraging as many people as possible to run it or walk it to help raise funds and also to raise awareness of the importance of regularly checking your body and getting checked out early if you have any concerns.
“Our aim is to raise £1,200 for the centre, but knowing how much they go above and beyond I would like to smash this target, so I’m reaching for the stars.”