‘Why am I walking 100km across the Sahara desert to support breast cancer charity CoppaFeel!’
Behind every step Donna Sanderson takes on a 100km trek through the Sahara Desert is a determination to help others.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer last year, the 43-year-old is determined to help people ‘find breast cancer sooner so they too can get through the process with as little scarring as possible’ .
She and husband Jonjo Sanderson, general manager of Wetherby Racecourse, will join celebrities such as Giovanna Fletcher and Vicky Pattison for the trek in November, in aid of breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel!
“In a way, I was very lucky that my breast cancer journey was relatively short and caught relatively early,” says Donna.
“In fact, breast cancer is one of the most curable cancers because you can amputate the breast and remove the cancer.”
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“I never really thought about breast cancer because I’m relatively young, fit and healthy, but as I found out, none of that really matters.”
It was “pure luck,” says Donna, that she found a lump on her right breast. “It was a bit like a frozen pea. It was very foreign, I had never felt it before.
Donna, who lives in Tockwith, between Wetherby and York, turned to her GP and was referred for tests at the Magnolia Center at York Hospital.
“Then in May last year our lives were turned upside down when I was told I had grade 3 invasive lobular breast cancer and the tumor was too big to remove without a full mastectomy. .
“At this stage, it was unclear if further treatment, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy, was necessary until the end of the operation to remove and check my lymph nodes.
“Fortunately, this was not the case, and the operation had done the trick. Since then, I have spoken and been made aware of five other women, all in their 40s with young families, going through their own breast cancer journeys.
“The lack of control and helplessness are overwhelming. But this year, I am determined to regain control.
Donna, director of Littlefairs Property Company, sees the CoppaFeel! a fundraising hike in the desert as a way to do so and she and Jonjo hope to raise £20,000 to support the charity.
CoppaFeel! is the first breast cancer charity in the UK to raise awareness only among young people. It aims to give people the knowledge and tools they need to learn about their bodies so that they can detect any changes in the breast area.
He also works to educate people about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer so that diagnosis happens as soon as possible, which means treatments are more effective. Its primary goal is for everyone to have the best possible chance of surviving breast cancer.
While physically Donna is doing well, the mental impact of a cancer diagnosis is still taking its toll and, like many others, she had to undergo her mastectomy alone, due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“It’s hard not having someone come up and hold your hand,” she says.
“Mentally, things are tough,” she continues. “I read a brilliant quote the other day that a diagnosis of cancer is like an earthquake, you have the initial earthquake and then you have the aftershocks.
“Obviously there has been a lot of news about Deborah James and things resonate a little more when you have been diagnosed with cancer. cancer, I just want to help.
Children Orla, 14, Tom, 12, and Teddy, eight, helped Donna and Jonjo with their fundraising efforts. “In the face of adversity, the three of them were fantastic,” says Donna.
“When kids find out their mum has cancer it must be pretty daunting because cancer for kids often means the end. We tried to stay as positive as possible and they were absolutely brilliant and have been ever since.”
Donna came across CoppaFeel! last year as she read as much information as possible about breast cancer. She knew she wanted to support the charity and she and Jonjo set their sights on hiking in the desert and have already raised over £11,000.
The five-day itinerary covers 100km, traversing Morocco’s harsh landscape punctuated by peaks, gorges, dunes and oases. It will be mentally and physically exhausting, but the couple are grateful that Donna is alive to be able to take on the challenge.
“The people [doing it] are amazing, it’s quite mind-blowing to meet such people and see what the human mind and body can do with a little bit of determination,” says Donna.
“I like to be challenged and without being too melodramatic, I’m alive and well and I’m fit and I can do it mentally, that’s a real focus.”
“As a family, I feel like this fundraiser for CoppaFeel! has been a really positive thing,” she adds. “It’s cathartic and like giving a bit of validation for what was a horrible year last year.”
To sponsor Donna and Jonjo, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/donna-jonjo-sanderson
On Tuesday, June 7, Donna and Jonjo are hosting a special charity race night to help raise money for CoppaFeel! at Wetherby Racecourse.
Donna says, “We are blown away by the support for the charity night and hope that even more people can come and enjoy a special night of racing. We really hope to reach our goal of £20,000.
To book tickets visit wetherbyracing.eticketme.com/sales For more information on signs of breast cancer visit coppafeel.org