“I just felt so helpless, like there wasn’t much I could do to help. I thought it would be a good way to channel my energy and emotions, and feel like I was doing something to help her and other people going through similar things like her,” says Abigail Dudeney, talking about her virtual cycle fundraising journey for Breast Cancer UK (BCUK).

Her sister, Charlotte Dudeney-Tucker, was diagnosed with breast cancer while living in the United States last year. Abigail explains that her older sister and American husband Cameron were travelling around the US, and “having a great summer” after getting married in March 2020, when it was brought to an end with a Stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis in November. Charlotte is now getting treatment in the UK.

“I’d never done a fundraiser before,” says Abigail, adding that she had not really been much into exercise in general, but would do anything for her sister. “I’m doing a virtual cycle of 1,083 miles, which is the distance from Land’s End to John O’Groats, and plan to complete the route by Charlotte’s birthday in July.”

She originally saw the fundraising fitness challenges on Facebook, before Charlotte was diagnosed. “So, I knew they were there and I’d seen a lot of people posting the things they were doing for charity. But it wasn’t something I thought about doing. And then Charlotte was diagnosed and so I signed up.”

Abigail bought a new exercise bike “because my old bike was long dead”, and now sets a goal of cycling an average of 10-20 miles in an evening.

“I basically add that mileage onto the challenge app and it all contributes to my progress,” she says. “People seem to be impressed by my thousand-mile goal, but anyone could do it as it’s not that hard. You can break up the journey into whatever times you want, so you could do 10 miles one day, and then a lot more the next. The support I’m getting is great!”

She adds that although many people may fundraise for cancer support charities, she felt it was important to support BCUK because of its more specific focus on prevention and research.

“We need to get everyone more educated and knowledgeable about breast cancer, especially the early signs,” she says. “That could help so many people, especially in my own age group – I’m 23, and Charlotte is 26.”

As Abigail comments, before her sister’s diagnosis, the thought of breast cancer hadn’t crossed her mind: “But now, I always tell people, and I’m posting on social media, and I feel it’s something that we need to be aware of.”

Charlotte’s Stage 2 breast cancer was diagnosed before any secondary spread, although her lymph nodes will be checked with a biopsy after her mastectomy.

“She’s been really open about her diagnosis and treatments,” comment Abigail. “She’s been public about the whole journey, and she has a blog called ‘The Letter C’. A lot of people are quite aware of that side of things, although not as many people knew about the fundraising virtual challenges. But now everyone I mention it to is really interested.”

Abigail plans to complete her 1,083-mile journey before the middle of July: “It’s Charlotte’s birthday on the 14th, and so I want to get it done before then. I tend to do quite big chunks, so I’m on track, I may be just a little bit behind, but I’ll catch up. I’ve fallen off track a lot, but because I know I’m raising money for such a special cause it just keeps me motivated.”

She adds that her sister’s example is helping her: “Charlotte’s a great example for me, because she’s always been really focused and channelled her feelings towards exercising and stuff. I wasn’t really like that, so she’s been so inspiring.

Her strength is amazing – she hated needles before all this, and now she has needles all the time, and she’s just had to step up and be strong. Just seeing that strength really pushes me when I feel like I can’t do it anymore. That’s what helps me keep going and finish this challenge!”

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