Irene refuses to lie down in fight against killer disease

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A determined Londonderry lady is taking on Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life to pay tribute to eight members of her family who tragically lost their fight with cancer.

Irene Hewitt, 61, from Londonderry, has lost much of her mum’s side of her family to the disease: her maternal grandmother Isa, and grandfather Andrew, her mum Margie, and her mum’s five brothers – Stewartie, Sammy, Teddy, Drew and Bertie – died after battling the illness.

And cancer is now affecting the next generation of the family, with her sister and numerous cousins living with the disease.

Two years ago, Irene’s sister Pat was diagnosed with non Hodgkin lymphoma – and her mum Margie passed away aged 85, following her own diagnosis of cancer just one year later.

To pay tribute to her family members, and to raise money to fund vital research into finding cures, Tesco Londonderry employee Irene is taking on the Race for Life 5k event in Belfast on Sunday 29 May.

Irene said: “We really need to find better treatments. So much is being done but people are still dying from cancer.

“My mum has passed away, and Pat is now battling cancer. I feel so strongly that Race for Life is something I need to keep doing to support research into this horrible disease.

“Cancer is so prevalent now. You don’t have to have lived through it and experienced it first-hand to be deeply affected by it.”

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is an inspiring women-only series of 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy and Marathon events which raises millions of pounds every year to help fund life-saving research.

More than 270,000 Tesco colleagues have taken part in Race for Life since 2002, raising over £20 million.

This year, Tesco and Cancer Research UK are celebrating 15 years in partnership - and with the support of Tesco’s army of amazing colleagues, the charity is hoping to raise £55 million with over 300 Race for Life events across the UK.

Tesco believes lots of little helps can make it easier to live more healthily. The partnership with Race for Life is a great way for customers and colleagues to make a big difference in the fight against cancer.

Irene has worked at the Tesco store in Strand Road in Londonderry, for almost 25 years, and is now a community champion at the store.

She has taken part in more than 10 Race for Life events over the years and this year she’ll be running with her 10-year-old granddaughter, Katie.

Irene added: “It’s such great fun on the day. There’s a real sense of camaraderie – everyone is there because they have been deeply affected by cancer. We all want to do something to help.

“I’m very proud to work for Tesco and proud that Tesco is the official partner of the event. Our company always gives me such fantastic support in every Race for Life I’ve taken part in.”

Jean Walsh, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Northern Ireland, said: “Every hour, someone in Northern Ireland is diagnosed with cancer. Thanks to advances in research more people are surviving than ever before. But there’s still more work to be done, so we’re grateful to Irene and her Tesco colleagues for helping to raise vital funds.

“We hope as many women as possible will be inspired to lace up their trainers and follow in their footsteps. Race for Life events are not competitive. They are not about being fit or fast. Taking part is about being part of a collective force of powerful women - of all ages - leading the charge against cancer.”

To enter Race for Life visit raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770.