It’s my 11th Race for Life, and I’m doing it for mum
She has lost her mother and sister to breast cancer. But brave Jan Aitken is determined the illness will not beat her.
The 47-year-old, who had a double mastectomy in a bid to prevent cancer, will be among thousands of women taking part in the Cancer Research Race For Life at Stormont next month.
“As far as I was concerned, there was no choice,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.
“The decision was not hard. When I had the surgery it was like an enormous weight had been lifted off my shoulders — the sheer relief of it all. The decision has saved my life.”
Ms Aitken was just 21 when her mother, Jean died in 1983.
Tragically, her sister Lila (45) died 19 years later in 2002, also from breast cancer.
“I had the surgery six months after Lila died — and I have absolutely no regrets,” she added.
This will be the 11th year that Jan has taken part in the 5km Race For Life in Belfast.
Last year 5,000 women ran, jogged and walked round the course and raised £350,000 for life saving research into the cancer. And organisers are hoping to match that total, if not surpass it, with two races around the Stormont estate on May 29.
Ms Aitken said: “I remember just before my mum died sitting with her watching a news report about a new drug that would help prolong the lives of those with breast cancer.
“My mum was so delighted at the thought that no other women would suffer the way she did.
“Remembering her smile that day always makes taking part in Race For Life special to me.”
“I didn't have my mum for very long and still miss her every day, so knowing that the money raised at Race For Life funds Cancer Research UK's vital research, enabling more families to stay together for longer, helps me honour my mum's dream.”
Meanwhile, event organiser Noelle Garvey said: “In 2011, we hope more women than ever before will take part.
“We need our Race For Life regulars, as well as women who took part years ago, to join together with many new faces to help save more lives.”
Race For Life started in 1994 with one event at Battersea Park which had 680 women.
Since it started, 4.7 million participants have raised more than £327m to fund Cancer Research UK’s vital work across the country. This year there are two races at Stormont on Sunday May 29 — at 11am and 3pm.
A third race will also take place at the University of Ulster Coleraine campus on June 12. Cancer Research UK spends more than £2m a year on research at Belfast City Hospital.