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2 months ago
2 March, 2022
And it’s that overriding thought that prompted Mat Heal to launch a cancer awareness campaign. Mat was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the start of the Covid pandemic in March 2020.
The dad of three, from Guildford in Surrey, doesn’t need treatment yet after catching the disease early. He is under ‘high surveillance’ by his medical team and has regular hospital check-ups.
Mat, 46, and his family have been affected by cancer. Mat’s wife lost both her mum and sister to breast cancer. Mat’s dad and grandad have also both battled prostate cancer.
“I was out running after the diagnosis and I was confused and angry. I was only 43 at the time and just wondered what it meant for me. There were a lot of emotions going around my head,” Mat said.
The overwhelming emotion was to ‘give cancer the middle finger’, Mat explains. A seed of an idea began to grow for how to support charities like Breast Cancer UK in raising awareness about how to reduce your chances of getting the disease.
That was how Foxtrot Oscar Cancer (FOC) – a play on words and what many people faced with a diagnosis might relate to – was born.
“Cancer’s quite aggressive and it doesn’t pick and choose who it attacks. There’s no race, religion, sex or gender. It doesn’t matter if you’re affluent, poor, young or old. You need to be a bit hard-hitting with cancer, as it’s hard-hitting. Some people might be offended by the middle finger but maybe you should ask someone that’s having chemo what they think and I’m sure they’d agree with the sentiment!” Mat explains.
Mat, who has played hockey all his life, wanted FOC to raise awareness of the disease through sport. Along with promoting healthy living as a preventative tool. They focus on building people’s knowledge around the disease. The preventive measures they can take. The early signs and symptoms to look out for, which can give you the greatest chance of receiving successful treatment.
Mat, along with the other group members, Oliver Woodland and Bradley Flory, didn’t just want people to hand over money but to engage with the charities they support and their prevention messages. Especially that healthy living and sports can reduce your chances of getting cancer.
FOC, established in 2020, sells items such as hoodies, t-shirts and baseball caps with the FOC branding and encourages sports clubs and people taking part in fundraising sporting events to wear the Foxtrot Oscar Cancer branded clothing to spread the prevention message.
All the profits go to cancer charities. In the first year, FOC supported Prostate Cancer UK but this year it’s supporting Breast Cancer UK.
“Some people want to support a charity and raise awareness but don’t want to ask people for money. So we provide a way for them to do that by wearing our t-shirts and other clothing,” Mat explains.
He added: “It’s never been about fundraising and not why we set up FOC, it’s about raising awareness. We have raised money along the way for cancer charities. We’ve always tried to come back to the core reason and that’s raising awareness and the ways you can help reduce your chances of getting it.
“We didn’t want people to just give us money. I wanted them to get something in return. Like a new hoodie, but at the same time, they’re helping raise money for vital charities like Breast Cancer UK. They campaign to help reduce the risk of breast cancer and provide tips on lifestyle changes such as exercising and healthy eating.”
Over 25% of breast cancer cases are preventable. Keeping fit can significantly help reduce your risk of getting it.
Breast Cancer UK has set up the Prevention Hub. An online resource offering personalised learning about how people can reduce their risk of breast cancer. The Hub provides education around how the risks vary at different points in our lives. And the things we can do to lower these risks.
Mat’s a big advocate for sport being a major preventative tool for reducing your risks.
He said: “It doesn’t need to be anything exciting. You can get out with the dog or get the kids out on their bikes. I think lockdown taught us that we don’t need expensive gym memberships to get moving. There are lots of online classes like Zumba or things like Joe Wicks exercise routines. It doesn’t need to be anything special. My message is, always stay fit, keep healthy and #sportbeatingcancer.”
We’re planning a charity golf day this year with donations going to Breast Cancer UK. The event will mainly be attended by men, so we will be having a guest speaker who will talk about how men can support their partners and wives through breast cancer treatment.
Mat is also encouraging people to take part in Breast Cancer UK’s Putt for Prevention. A 25-foot putt challenge to highlight that over a quarter of breast cancer cases are preventable.
In addition, Mat plays in lots of hockey games. Where many of his team, and hopefully the opposition, will be wearing Foxtrot’s branded clothing. Helping to promote the prevention message.
To follow Foxtrot Oscar Cancer on social media search #FoxtrotOscarCancer or visit its website www.foxtrotoscarcancer.co.uk
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