A loving daughter whose father was diagnosed with an incurable blood cancer stretched herself at a yoga challenge this month in aid of the charity which has supported her family through the ordeal.
Clare Day, 39, mastered 20 yoga poses in 20 days between September 20 and October 9 as part of the 20 for 20 challenge, a national fundraising campaign aimed at supporting patients with rare cancers.
She is now hoping others will follow in her footsteps by signing up to the 20-day challenge and help raise vital funds for blood cancer charity Myeloma UK, a small organisation which has been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on Myeloma UK’s fundraising events and activities right across the UK and many have been put on hold or cancelled altogether so I really wanted to help,” said the York-based sustainability consultant. “When my dad was diagnosed this year it felt like a sledgehammer blow. Myeloma UK has been invaluable to us as a family. The charity’s information and news stream has been so useful to find out about treatment. We’re so grateful that there’s a charity out there doing fantastic work and helping people with myeloma.”
Clare’s dad, Hugh Mansfield, had been complaining of debilitating bone and hip pain for months when he eventually collapsed and was rushed to A&E on May 10. He had consulted his GP on numerous occasions but, despite being reduced to using a walking stick, his symptoms were repeatedly dismissed as “old age”. Three days after being admitted to hospital, the 65-year-old was told he had myeloma, a rare and, sadly, incurable blood cancer.
“He received several life-saving blood transfusions and emergency treatment, for which we are very grateful for,” added Clare. “Unfortunately, he’s in the late stages of his illness. Looking back, he had had symptoms for a long time but his GP was quite dismissive and said it was all natural ageing. He had had colds and infections every winter for three years and he’d generally been struggling. We didn’t connect all the jigsaw pieces and neither did his GP.”
Myeloma occurs in the bone marrow and currently affects over 24,000 people in the UK. Despite being the third most common type of blood cancer, it is especially difficult to detect as symptoms, including back pain, easily broken bones, fatigue and recurring infection, are often linked to general ageing or minor conditions.
While it is incurable, myeloma is treatable in the majority of cases. Treatment is aimed at controlling the disease, relieving the complications and symptoms it causes, and extending and improving patients’ quality of life.
More than half of patients face a wait of over five months to receive the right diagnosis and around a third are diagnosed through an emergency route. By that point, many of them are experiencing severe or life-threatening symptoms.
Following his diagnosis, Hugh immediately received radiotherapy. The father-of-three, from Andover, is now undergoing chemotherapy. He is due to receive a stem cell transplant early next year.
The 20 for 20 challenge proved not only a great way to raise funds for Myeloma UK and awareness of myeloma but has allowed Clare to process her pain and bond with her dad, by sending him daily updates and photos of the poses she’d mastered.
“The first month after his diagnosis was a blur – I was in a bit of a zombie state,” confided Clare, who lives in the York Racecourse area. “The challenge has put me in a more positive, resilient headspace. I’ve really benefited in terms of mind, body and health and it’s helped me be a support to my dad.”
Now in its second year, the 20 for 20 campaign invites people across the UK to support 20 lesser-known charities by completing a 20-day challenge anytime between September 20 and December 20. Participants can choose to run, cycle, bake, knit, or whatever tickles their fancy and either donate any funds raised to a specific organisation, like Myeloma UK, or donate to a group pot to be divvied up between all 20 partner charities.
Clare is hoping to raise £500 for Myeloma UK and has already reached the halfway mark.
“It would mean the world to my family, and bring a huge smile to my dad, if people could contribute to our fundraising campaign, take part in the 20 for 20 challenge and help raise awareness of myeloma.”
To make a donation head to Clare’s JustGiving page, head to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/clare-day21
To sign up to the 20 for 20 campaign, visit www.20for20.org.uk