9 months ago
2 May, 2023
“I just wanted to do something special for my sister Zineb, to commemorate her life and push awareness of how she was taken from us by one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer,” says Ramzi Kamaal, a novice runner who completed the Battersea Park 10k run in April 2023, marking a personal best.
Ramzi had never done any sports or running, but after his sister’s death at age 38, he needed to focus on something else and turned to the gym and running.
“I started the couch to 5k programme, which was horrendous in the beginning,” laughs Ramzi. “But I was too proud to give up and pushed on with it. And then I got the ‘running bug’ – although I didn’t have the gear until recently, so I looked a bit insane like I was just running for the bus! Running is still somewhat difficult but not impossible.”
Zineb had triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), which accounts for about 10-15% of all breast cancers and affects a small minority of African women.
“We were really close, and she introduced me to a whole lot of things that I’m in love with now – like cooking, music, and dancing,” says Ramzi, describing his older sister. “She was always really supportive of me and instilled the mentality of never letting anyone bring you down and just having confidence in who you are and having integrity in who you are. She is a huge inspiration in my life.”
Zineb gave birth to Ramzi’s nephew in October 2020. She had some pain in her breast but thought it was due to breastfeeding and changes in her body. Her mother suggested a check-up because the family has a history of breast cancer. That’s when they got the devastating news that Zineb was already in stage four cancer, and cancer had metastasized to her lungs.
“It was horrible news,” says Ramzi. “We went through various chemo treatments, and she tried some newly approved drugs, but she started to deteriorate and passed away late last year. It turns out our family has the BRCA1 gene, so my 5-year-old son has a 50% chance of having it, as does my two-year-old nephew. All of this just makes it even more important to share the benefits of trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle – my son even came with me for a practice run in the park.”
Ramzi is fundraising for Breast Cancer UK. It has added an extra element: “Zineb was always into cool stuff, so I want to do something slightly different because I didn’t just want to ask for money, so I decided to raffle off some prizes. I managed to get four different prizes, including a loose-leaf tea bundle from Tea & Me, a month of bespoke online coaching with PT Louis Walcott, a bundle of repurposed handle butter knives from All Day Knives, and a natural nail manicure with manicurist By Ezana. Three of them are small businesses and are sponsoring me out of the kindness of their heart.”
Friends and family are also a huge support, from Ramzi’s proud mum to his wife, Lucy, who not only helped create social media promotions but also got his new running kit as a birthday gift, and a friend who hosted Ramzi on his podcast to raise awareness of triple-negative breast cancer. In total, more than 50 supporters raised over £1500.
As the day approached for the Battersea 10K run, Ramzi says he was a bit nervous, although family and friends were out in force to support him.
“Lucy and our son made a sign saying, ‘Go Daddy!’ and my mum, and my little sister, and my big brother were all there with their sign. It was a first for all of us because no one in my family’s ever done anything like that before. So, it was great that all of us could come together to experience it.
As soon as I got into the race, everything just melted away. During the middle of the race, I was thinking about my sister and that was really emotional. Then, as the race progressed, I got a bit competitive towards the end, to be honest. There was another competitor – who looked a lot more experienced and fitter than me – who kept on overtaking me, and, during the last leg of the race, I just bolted for the finish line! I managed to overtake her and then she came up to me afterwards to say well done. Which was quite funny, as I wasn’t making up the competition in my head.”
Ramzi got a medal for completing the run and is now considering doing a half triathlon next year. He laughingly admits that he’s got the ‘running bug’ but says he will now take some time to reflect on the whole journey, hoping to live with the integrity and confidence that Zineb instilled in him.
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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