Claire Bilbie, age 44, is putting herself through her paces in preparation for the Virgin Money London Marathon on 22 April, to raise money for CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people.
Claire said: “When the hospital first said our daughter had cancer, I was absolutely devastated. You almost don’t believe it when they say the ‘c’ word.
"It’s so hard as a parent to see your child go through this, you just wish you could take their place.”
Claire’s family were on holiday at Euro Disney in 2016 when she first noticed her daughter Lola, aged six at the time, was looking ‘a bit yellowy’ - but thought nothing of it as she had otherwise been perfectly well. When they got back home, they went to the doctors to check it out, and were sent straight to Watford Hospital.
Doctors initially thought it was a problem with her liver, but it was only during surgery that they realised it was actually a tumour. Lola was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma cancer in July 2016 and began extensive treatment.
Claire continued: “From the moment we met Audrey, our CLIC Sargent social worker at Great Ormond Street Hospital, we felt supported. She offered us lots of practical help, such as giving us child friendly books to explain the condition to Lola and 10-year-old brother Max.
“He was old enough to remember that my mum died of cancer in 2009, so when we said Lola had cancer, he said ‘she’s going to die,’ which was difficult.
“CLIC Sargent helped us in many ways including arranging play specialists to visit Lola in hospital and organising a blue badge to help us with travelling and parking for our numerous hospital visits and appointments.
“It was a moment of madness to sign up for the marathon I think! I’ve always watched it on TV and thought that it’s incredible – but I’m not a runner at all! I thought I would put my name down and chance it, but when I got the place, it was real mixed emotions for me.
“The training is going ok considering that I couldn’t run a mile before this! Thinking about race day is a bit terrifying but exciting too, I just want it to happen now.
Laura Mayes, Sports and Challenge Events Manager at CLIC Sargent, said: “When cancer strikes young lives we fight tirelessly to limit the damage it causes beyond their health through practical, emotional and financial support.
"We rely entirely on donations to fund our vital work and so we can’t thank Claire enough for her fantastic efforts."
“This big challenge Claire is taking on will make a massive difference for young people with cancer by helping us ensure they are getting the right support they need.”
Lola endured six months of intensive chemo and a month of radiotherapy, followed by maintenance chemo. She lost her hair and suffered acute sickness during her treatment, which she finished in August 2017. Lola now has scans every three months to monitor her health.
“CLIC Sargent has done so much for us in so many different ways,” said mum, Claire. “This marathon is about giving back. My motivation is thinking that you could do something for other families and to make my kids feel proud of me.”
To sponsor Claire’s London Marathon effort, and help to raise vital funds, go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ClaireBilbie