HEALTHY LIVING - Laura strides out in mother's memory

A devoted daughter has moved forward in her grief to raise cash for charity in memory of her mum - determined to make her proud with every step. John Quinn found out more.

A YEAR ago yesterday Laura Nickson suffered one of the most painful experiences there is - the death of a parent. But out of this trauma has been born a determination to help in the fight against one of the world's biggest killers, cancer.

Her mother Catherine had been diagnosed with kidney cancer at the age of 55 - a mere five months before she died - and soon afterwards underwent an operation to remove the tumour.

Tragically soon afterwards, at the start of 2010, the family were given the devastating news that the cancer had returned and spread to her liver.

Heartbreakingly the situation was revealed as even more serious, since the disease was now incurable.

Just 10 days later the Inland Revenue worker died.

Laura, a qualified solicitor working as a legal assistant in Sheffield, said: "My mum passed away on January 23, 10 days after being told that it was terminal. It was so quick, but I am glad she didn't have weeks or months of suffering."

The 28-year-old had spent those days helping to care for her mum along with her dad Edmund and brother Peter, back at the family home in Preston. Her employers at Sheffield Hallam's University Enterprise Centre were understanding of her situation, allowing her to work from there during those final weeks.

Laura said: "The past year has been extremely difficult and really upsetting at times.

"I miss mum very much and altering my visions of the future I always pictured is probably the most heartbreaking thing of all. I couldn't have got through the past year or so without my family and friends, but in particular my boyfriend of two-and-a-half years, James Alger. He has always been there for me, to mop up the tears and give me a hug, even when I take my upset feelings out on him - I appreciate his support so much."

Cancer, according to the World Health Organisation, is now thought to be the world's most devastating and most common terminal disease, while this year Cancer Research UK says it has now overtaken heart disease as the biggest killer of British men.

Every two minutes someone in Britain is told they have cancer - over 297,000 in 2007, the last year for which statistics are available.

Although survival rates have increased - with half of all sufferers now living for more than five years - there is still a desperate need for more funding to search for ways to both prevent and cure it.

It is statistics like this that have seen Laura work through the grief and heartache of losing her mum at such a young age to find a new determination to raise cash and awareness of the disease in all its many forms.

She joined forces with three other Sheffielders to form the Steel City Herculeans, so-called because according to Greek mythology, Hercules crushed Cancer the crab.

Laura, Frances Horsfield, Stephen Pegg and Kerrie Shepherd set out - as part of the Sheffield 3K Challenge - to raise 3,000 in a year for Cancer Research UK.

And the foursome managed to reach their target several months early after organising a series of events.

These included a family walk and fun day in Weston Park and a Music Beats Cancer charity concert, held at the O2 Academy 2 and featuring some of the local music scene's top up-and-coming acts.

Outside of the city, Doncaster's Lakeside Village shopping centre held a month of fundraising for Cancer Research UK, with all four Herculeans involved.

Even though they have now completed what they set out to achieve, the quartet are not stopping there.

The success of their events has inspired them to continue going forward and they are currently holding an ongoing online auction through eBay to raise more cash, while ideas for the future include a book of poems written by local schoolchildren.

Laura said taking something positive from the ordeal of losing her mum had helped through the past year.

"My mum was a very special person," she said. "She has so much courage and was so brave, was always smiling and got on with anyone. She loved Christmas and shopping, and these are some of my favourite memories of her - sharing Christmas together and going shopping together.

"I think it's important to learn from anything that happens to you and try and draw positives from it. My mum and dad worked so hard to give me what I want in life whether it be a university education, paying for my various hobbies throughout the years or just new clothes.

"Losing my mum makes me more determined than ever to succeed in whatever I do and to make her proud of me. On behalf of the team, I'd like to thank everyone that has supported us or made a donation in 2010, and hope it will continue in 2011."

If you would like to help the Herculeans you can find them at www.steelcityherculeans.org.uk or email steelcityherculeans@hotmail.co.uk . Visit www.cancerresearchuk.org for information.

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