11 December, 2023

Self-confessed adrenaline junky Mandy Morris is no stranger to a challenge – having scaled Everest base camp and just months away from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. But she admits that her challenge to raise money for Breast Cancer UK is a little bit daunting.  

Mandy, 54, from Essex, will trek 100km across the Sahara Desert with her friend Claire Alliud in November. Both their best friends and Mandy’s sister-in-law were diagnosed with the disease.  

Fortunately, both women’s friends are now in remission, and Mandy’s sister-in-law is receiving treatment. But she said when Claire asked her to take part in the challenge for Breast Cancer UK, it was a ‘no-brainer’.  

Mandy, who has recently completed a half marathon, admits she keeps herself very fit and healthy but is well aware that walking across the most famous desert in the world will be very hard.  

She said: “I’ve been training for the half marathon and to climb Kilimanjaro, so that’s really helping to keep me motivated. I’m doing lots of walking to build muscle in my legs and lots of running.   

“I’m also planning some trips to the seaside to run on the sand to get used to it, as it’s obviously a lot harder to walk on. We’ll be climbing some huge sand dunes on the walk, so we need to train for that type of walking. I’m hoping the Kilimanjaro climb will help with that!”  

What does the challenge involve?

The Sahara Desert trek will take place in Morocco’s northeastern tip of the desert. It will take 4 days in gruelling temperatures. Although avoiding the hottest parts of the day, which can reach 70 C. The group, led by a trained guide, will sleep in tents overnight with the Anti-Atlas Mountain range as their backdrop.  

Each day the group will walk until they reach the end, where they intend to celebrate their success.  

Mandy, who works for her brother’s estate agents, is a keen advocate for taking good care of your health and understands the importance of prevention to help reduce your chances of getting breast cancer and other diseases. Five years ago, a friend had a heart attack, prompting Mandy to kickstart a healthier lifestyle and make exercise a part of her daily routine.  

She said: “It doesn’t matter who you are or how old you are, breast cancer can affect anyone. So it’s really important that more people are aware of how they can prevent the disease and the things you can do to reduce your chances of getting it.”  

Why Breast Cancer UK?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, but atleast a third of cases are preventable. Over 55,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year. Breast Cancer UK believes their work can have a significant impact in helping women and men reduce their risk of developing breast cancer. 

Sadly, not all cases are preventable. But studies have shown that changing your lifestyle can reduce your chances of getting breast cancer significantly. The charity uses the latest academic research on breast cancer prevention to provide guidance on how to reduce your risk.  

Although rarer, breast cancer can also affect men. Mandy’s cousin was diagnosed two years ago with the disease. Fortunately, he’s now okay following treatment, but it shocked Mandy and her family.   

“When he told me, I was taken aback because you just don’t expect it to happen to men, do you? There needs to be more awareness of the disease for both women and men, which is one of the reasons I’m doing this challenge, so people talk about it more,” she added.  

Around 390 men a year in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer in men is generally discovered at a later stage, so it is vital that more men become aware of the causes. And, the signs of breast cancer and what they can do to reduce their risk of getting this devastating disease.  

Mandy’s husband Andy is behind her every step of the way but won’t be joining her and Claire, also 54. However, he is training alongside Mandy as he’ll be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with her in September.  

Mandy’s epic challenge begins on November 9th, and she’s set herself a fundraising target of £2,500. Visit her JustGiving page here. 


Post- challenge

Mandy said: “It it was amazing! Recovery was ok. Lots of stretching”

“Personally, I didn’t face any problems, but it was not easy. There are hard parts, and not so hard, and the dessert is very hot. I recommend lots of training. The trip was absolutely fantastic, and I had the most amazing group and leaders. I can honestly say I have a new family!”

“I loved all of it: the views, the people, the leaders, the camels, the food. The worst is probably the flies and the toilets (holes in the sand). But to be fair, you are in the middle of a desert, and it’s a challenge!”

Fancy doing your own challenge? Download our fundraising pack full of ideas and inspiration! So you can help prevent breast cancer, starting with an epic challenge. 

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