When I set out to raise £1,000 for a breast cancer charity I never expected to still be fundraising twenty years later, be fast approaching £1 million and to have helped to create a beautiful charity rose that would blossom for many years to come. It just goes to show what you can achieve when like-minded, passionate people join together to make a difference.
Twenty years ago my sister-in-law, Louise, asked me to help raise £1,000 for a new charity called Breakthrough Breast Cancer. With the help of my family and friends we jumped in at the deep end and organised a ball – long dresses, black tie, Magnus Magnusson as a celebrity speaker, the works. It was a wonderful night and we raised £7,000.
Louise danced the night away even though by then her breast cancer had spread. Only a few months later, Louise died aged just 44. I still treasure the letter she wrote to me saying that even though it was too late for her, to please continue fundraising for the sake of our daughters, as research was the only way forward.
With a heavy heart, I set up a voluntary group to not only raise funds but also awareness about breast cancer. Everyone in the group had a reason to be there, either they had breast cancer or had lost someone they loved to this awful disease. Over time our friendships grew along with our fundraising total which now stands at £930,000.
Then in 2014, our friend and group member Aileen died from breast cancer aged just 44. We were all devastated. We decided to buy a rose for Aileen’s husband, Sandy, as something to remember her by and it was this that gave fellow volunteer Jean the idea that we could create and name a rose for our charity – Breast Cancer Now.
With the help of our supporters at Hall’s, a local garden centre, we met with Nick Molesworth from Nursery Fresh Plants, who agreed to turn our idea into reality. Nick shared our passion to create a legacy that would last for years to come and pulled out all the stops, literally turning our seed of an idea into full bloom.
In June 2015 the ‘Time to Live’ rose was launched by TV presenter Nicki Chapman at the National Plant Show with £1 being donated from every rose sold. Now many garden centres across the UK are stocking this beautiful, strongly scented pink tea rose and pound matching for our charity.
Our fundraising continues – with 1 in 8 women being diagnosed with breast cancer there is still much to be done.
And now, our growing network of Move it or Lose it Instructors can raise awareness and help save lives too. Research has shown that physical activity reduces our risk of breast cancer, particularly in post-menopausal women and also has the strongest reported effect on reducing the risk of the disease recurring. Together we can really make a difference.
Seeing the rose for the first time was a very emotional moment; the flower is beautiful and the scent is divine, reminiscent of trying to make perfume by squashing rose petals into a bottle of water as a child!
Having lost Louise, Linden and Irene, my three sisters-in-law, the rose is a way of turning helplessness into hope and it brings us closer to achieving a future where no woman will die of breast cancer.
A beautiful and inspirational story...I believe together we can make a difference Julie... Having lost my Mum to breast cancer Ian, my husband, and me have been fund raising by running the Breast Cancer UK 10km runs at various stately homes across Britain. We are now going through the same heart ache with Ian's Mum. A rose is a beautiful symbol of love and hope.