Mother runs London Marathon after losing both parents to cancer within three years

10 April 2014

A young mother who lost both her parents to cancer in the space of two years is running the London Marathon to raise money for cancer prevention.

Clair O’Hanlon took up the challenge after her mother Kathleen died of ovarian cancer in 2010 aged just 56, followed by her 65-year-old father Patrick’s death from lymphoma 26 months later.

The 28-year-old, from Colindale, North West London, is raising money for World Cancer Research Fund, which funds scientific research and health information programmes to help people reduce their risk of getting cancer.

When her mother passed away, Miss O’Hanlon, her siblings and her father were devastated. She said: “When my mother died, half of my father did.”

Just two years later, on the anniversary of her mother’s funeral, she had to take her father into hospital when he was visiting her at her then home in County Louth, Ireland.

He had gone to support her as she was due to go into hospital for a small operation – but arrived looking so unwell that his daughter immediately took him to accident and emergency.

She said: “He came over to support me but I ended up taking him to hospital.

“The doctors were very worried and said if we had left it a few more hours he would have been gone.

“It was all very shocking and I didn’t have time to process it, it was just so overwhelming.”

Her father, a builder, never left the hospital and passed away from lymphoma in July 2012.

Miss O’Hanlon, who has a nine-year-old daughter, said that the pain of losing both her parents made her want to help other people become aware about cancer.

The mother-of-one said: “Having lost my mother to cancer, the last thing I ever expected was to lose my dad to it.

“There are no words to describe how it feels to lose both parents to this disease.

“Afterwards I was in a really bad way and I shut down. I didn’t know who I was and I wanted to run away from my life.

“I missed them so much. But I realised I had to keep living because that’s what my parents would have wanted me to do if they were alive.”

Last October, on what would have been her father’s 66th birthday, the accounts manager decided to enter the London Marathon.

Miss O’Hanlon, who has so far raised £1,200 for her first marathon, said: “I know so many people affected by different types of cancer, so I wanted to help an organisation that funds research into prevention.

“Whenever I don’t want to train, I think of my mum and dad and they make me go the extra mile.

“If I can raise awareness and help other people who are going through the same thing, it will all be worth.”

Paul Fretwell, Head of Fundraising at World Cancer Research Fund, said: “We are hugely grateful to Clair for her support. The London Marathon is a serious challenge and an excellent way of raising vital funds for cancer prevention and promoting awareness about the links between cancer and lifestyle factors such as diet and physical activity.”

Scientists say about a third of cancers could be prevented if people were to maintain a healthy body weight, eat a healthy diet and be physically active.