'WCRF is looking at ways you can help yourself'

Close friends James Radford and Carl Villiers from Northamptonshire have been raising funds for World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) since 2017

James Radford and Carl Villiers"If you can give yourself a better chance of avoiding cancer by doing a bit of research and seeking basic advice, then why wouldn't you?

"There are so many charities out there trying to find a cure, but WCRF is actually looking at ways you can help yourself" – Carl

Postman James Radford and firefighter Carl Villiers embarked on a series of challenges in preparation for the 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon to raise funds for WCRF. They hit the ground running in the spring, taking part in The Bedford 20, a 20-mile run through the Bedfordshire countryside, followed swiftly by two treadmill endurance challenges, a family fun evening, and a hugely successful 1980s music night with a fancy dress competition and raffle.

The pair's endurance and fundraising efforts were all in preparation for the 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon on 22 April, no mean feat as it was one of the hottest marathons on record.

Their commitment for the cause doesn’t end here. This year they are doing the challenges once again and are running the Great North Run to continue raising awareness and funds for cancer prevention.

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Treadmill endurance

The treadmill endurance challenges took place in Tesco's Weston Favell store and the Newlands Shopping Centre in Kettering. Family and friends got involved through bucket collections, while James and Carl concentrated on the task of running half-hour sessions over an eight-hour period. As well as raising money for WCRF, the pair wanted to use the treadmill challenges to promote awareness of the charity's work. So their raffle prizes included hampers of fruit and vegetables, as well as our WCRF health information leaflets to help the duo promote WCRF's key message about cancer prevention and survival through diet and lifestyle.

'It was very moving'

The two friends have been incredibly touched by the support and generosity of the public during their fundraising activities. "I'm amazed at what some people do," says James, citing the example of a woman they met during a treadmill challenge who emptied the contents of her wallet into his hands, amounting to over £100. "She had clearly been affected by cancer, you could see the tears in her eyes," says James, "but she wanted to tell me personally that she was behind us all the way, that she supported us. It was very moving."

Cancer has affected both men in different ways. James, who lost his mother, grandmother and aunt to cancer, has an inherited condition – Lynch syndrome – which means he has a higher risk of getting certain cancers such as bowel cancer. Carl has a gene mutation in his family making him more susceptible to tumours in the renal system.

Understanding only too well the grief and sadness caused by the disease, James and Carl have taken steps to ensure they give themselves the best possible chance. Both are regularly screened and monitored. Carl says: "My programme of screening is great, and it aligns so well with WCRF's Cancer Prevention Recommendations about lifestyle choices such as healthy eating and exercise."

All about education

Both men have adopted healthier lifestyles at home since becoming involved with WCRF. Carl says: "It's all about education, telling people what they need to do to reduce their risk. If you can give yourself a better chance of avoiding cancer by doing a bit of research and seeking basic advice, then why wouldn't you? There are so many charities out there trying to find a cure, but WCRF is actually looking at ways you can help yourself."

James adds: "My stepmum now has cancer, so it's really tough seeing my dad having to face the disease again after losing my mum.”

"It's been a gruelling year but that is why I do what I do for WCRF – the fundraising gives me focus, something positive to channel my energies into. If I can help one person not to have to deal with what I have had to deal with, then I will feel I've made a difference."