Twin sisters from Preston have told of the heartache they suffered when they lost their dad to a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos.

Cath and Anna Gregson were just six when their dad John passed away after being diagnosed with mesothelioma when he was 39-years-old.

He and the Fulwood twins' mum Wendy were told that he would have just 18 months to live.

At the time, John was said to be one of the youngest people in the country to have this type of cancer, caused by asbestos.

By the time the cancer was detected, unfortunately it was incurable. John did receive chemotherapy treatment in the hope that it would give him extra time with his family and he and Wendy were able to take the girls to Majorca shortly before he died aged 41.

Cath and Anna, now 22, are supporting Cancer Research UK's latest fundraising campaign, Walk All Over Cancer.

They are inviting people to sign up now and get sponsored to walk 10,000 steps every day in March to support the charity’s life-saving mission.

The former Cardinal Newman College pupils are now both training to be teachers, and have always supported Cancer Research UK since losing their dad John to cancer in 2005.

Anna and Cath Gregson are supporting Cancer Research UK's latest fundraising campaign, Walk All Over Cancer

Cath said: “It was incredibly sad losing our dad at such a young age. And we absolutely know the importance of research to stop families facing the same heartache we went through, so we hope as many people as possible will support Walk All Over Cancer.”

Anna added: “This sounds like the perfect fundraiser during lockdown and a great way to get fit at the same time. This is a cause which is always so close to our hearts.”

By raising vital funds, people across the North West could help to get vital research back on track after the impact of Covid-19.

There are plenty of positive health benefits too. As well as helping towards a healthy body weight, taking part could also take a little weight off the mind. Regular walking is a great stress-reliever and can assist with mental wellbeing by improving mood and sleep.

Jane Bullock, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman for the North West, said: “We all want 2021 to have a more positive outlook. So why not give yourself a boost by committing to get more active and having an achievable goal to aim for - all in aid of a good cause. Signing up to Walk All Over Cancer is a safe and simple way to show support during these challenging times. Plus, knowing you’ll be helping to save lives is the ultimate motivation.”

Ten thousand steps is equal to about five miles, based on the average person’s strides, so by the end of March participants will have clocked up more than 150 miles.

John and Wendy Gregson on their wedding day

That’s quite a challenge for some, but adopting small changes that you can stick to can really add up – whether it’s taking part in conference calls on the go, exploring local beauty spots or treating the dog to a month of extra-long walks.

Keeping check on the number of steps taken each day is a great way to create a sense of achievement and it’s easy to do with smartphone apps, pedometers and wearable activity trackers available to help.

Walk All Over Cancer is now integrated with FitBit, so that participants can automatically publish their step count on their fundraising page throughout the month.

Jane added: “With around 42,000 people diagnosed with cancer every year in the North West, Cancer Research UK is working every day to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease.

“The truth is Covid-19 has slowed us down, but we will never stop striving to create better treatments for tomorrow. Every step our scientists take towards beating cancer relies on our supporters. That’s why we need everyone to step up to Walk All Over Cancer.”

Cath and Anna Gregson with their dad

Cancer Research UK currently funds almost half of all publicly funded cancer research in the UK and is the only UK charity fighting more than 200 types of cancer.  

Before the pandemic, the charity was able to spend more than £33m last year on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research in the region.

To sign up and receive a free fundraising pack, with tips and ideas to help with the challenge, visit cruk.org/walkallover

Participants are being encouraged to use #WalkAllOverCancer and tag @CR_UK when sharing their challenge on social media.

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