As cancer doesn't care about the pandemic, charity is more important than ever

Six weeks ago, my sister, Kris, suggested we bounced non-stop for 12 hours for charity. 

Naturally, I thought she was joking.

But then I should probably have learnt by now that when it comes to my twin’s unwavering love for CoppaFeel!, the breast cancer charity we set up together 11 years ago, she can be fiercely serious. So, I dutifully agreed.

When I think about all the incredible things our charity has achieved over the last decade or so, and the mad things we’ve persuaded others to do to support us, I still marvel. 

Even though it still feels so grassroots to me, what started with a logo scribbled on a piece of paper and some badly cut out stickers has transformed into a life-saving machine.

And the one thing that has never changed is the passion felt by my sister to right the wrongs of her story and an incurable breast cancer diagnosis when she was just 23, to ensure others’ breast cancers are caught early. 

Of course we are hugely lucky to now have a brilliant team steering this almighty boob ship for us and thousands more supporters, volunteers and ambassadors, such as Greg James and Gi Fletcher, pouring their time and love into ensuring that flame that my sister lit in 2009 never dulls. 

But I truly believe it’s Kris’s continuous lessons in turd-glittering that has kept the CoppaFeel! fire blazing.

At this time of year I’d normally be watching her spend all her time glued to a laptop and phone, pouring every ounce of her being into throwing another epic festival at London’s House of Vans. 

Called Festifeel, this event is Kris’ baby. It was born in 2010 and it has grown into a beautiful beast with music curated by Fearne Cotton. It not only entertains a bunch of lucky people on one Saturday in October but crucially also raises funds and brings the importance of CoppaFeel! and its breast-checking message to life for countless more. 

It’s more than just a festival and I’m a witness to the profound impact it has on my sister, who has lived with cancer now for 11 years, and her need to make the event better, bigger and more memorable year on year.

Sadly, coronavirus put a stop to it this year, along with countless other fundraising events and educational campaigns. It’s a truly crushing effect – not just for us, but for the many charities that are feeling the harsh impact of the pandemic right now. And something we will be feeling for a while to come.

But cancer doesn’t care about that, which is why, being the determined tenacious woman that she is, my sister felt like she had to take matters into her own hands, or more specifically, legs.

Her lockdown activity and exercise of choice became her dust-covered rebounder.

I would sometimes join her and our friend Kay on a group bounce Zoom session and within seconds feel a lot brighter and more uplifted. 

It was during one of these sessions that the idea to help CoppaFeel! ‘BOUNCE BACK’ from 2020 sprung into Kris’ head. In short, it would be a sponsored 12-hour online bounce-a-thon, headed up by me and her.

When she told me about it – and I somehow agreed to the idea – I couldn’t help but think back to a decade ago, when we organised our first sporting challenge for the charity. 

A casual 135 mile cycle ride from one side of Cornwall to the other. Kris and I did the whole thing on the tandem my husband Graham and I own. 

She was still undergoing active cancer treatment and to be honest, neither of us had ever sat on a saddle for more than about half an hour. 

The charity was in its infancy and yet we still managed to get 40 others to join our crusade, including Olympic legend Denise Lewis. 

There were times, mainly as we approached another of Cornwall’s delightful hills, where I thought we wouldn’t make the finish line. But with secondary cancer nestled in Kris’ bones and a desire to make a change (with a small touch of stubborn competitiveness) she and I cycled up every hill and crossed that finish line in Land’s End.

Fast-forward 10 years and with our bouncing fundraiser taking place this weekend, I’ve no doubt that Kris and I should have once again spent a few more hours training – this time on our Bellicon rebounders.

I certainly should have spent more time focusing on my pelvic floor, given that I birthed a child less than a year ago.

But what will be keeping us going alongside the amazing line-up of brilliant famous faces we’ve got as company throughout our 12 hours of bouncing hell – and the knowledge we’ve raised thousands of pounds to support CoppaFeel!’s vital work – will also be the incredible memories of the many times we’ve pushed ourselves to extreme lengths.

We’ve been here before and we know the pain is temporary – but the effects of our challenge will be lasting.

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