A HALL GREEN mum, who was diagnosed with cancer just three weeks before her wedding, will sound the starter horn for this year’s Solihull Race for Life on June 19.
Karen Cocks will take to the stage at the Malvern Park event to share her survival story with the crowds.
The 37-year-old mum is also VIP at Birmingham Cannon Hill Race for Life, where she will lead a confetti cannon ‘21 gun salute’ in honour of the event’s 21st birthday on May 25.
Karen, who runs a fledgling cake-baking business from home in Hall Green, says she is lucky to be alive after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer just three weeks before her wedding in June 2011.
Determined not to be prevented from getting fiancé Ian down the aisle, Karen wore her hair down and to one side to cover up the lump above her breast that was visible through her wedding dress.
When Karen discovered the lump she was still nursing her six-month-old baby Olivia, and was reassured that it was probably a blocked milk duct.
However it continued to grow, and when further investigations revealed it was a tumour, she blurted out: “But I’m getting married in three weeks! I can’t have cancer.”
The tumour was a type of soft tissue sarcoma called Ewings Sarcoma.
Karen was told it was most common in young people aged ten to 20 years old and was very rare in a woman of her age. She would need immediate, intensive treatment.
She added: “In a matter of days I went from having my wedding and the start of our family life ahead of me, to not knowing if I would live.
“The despair at what should have been the happiest time of my life was so very hard to deal with.”
The couple decided to only tell close family and bridesmaids, so the wedding went ahead with most of the guests in the dark.
Karen had an appointment to plan her treatment only days before her marriage.
“I didn’t want to be robbed of the day I had dreamt of all my life, so I put my bravest face on,” she added.
“But I would be lying if I said it didn’t get to me when I made my vows about sickness and health – it put a whole new complexion on it.”
After a lightning few days honeymoon in the Lake District, Karen embarked upon a ten month course of treatment, involving chemotherapy to shrink the tumour, surgery to remove it, then more chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.
“I suffered every side effect it was possible to have, and by the time treatment finished in May 2012 I had missed most of the first year of Olivia’s life,” Karen added.
“But I was bald and proud, got my strength back, and have been in remission now for four years.
“I met another woman in hospital who had the same type of cancer as me, we became good friends and I was devastated when she died.
“I know I am incredibly lucky and that is why I think raising money for research through Race for Life is so important.”
Last year Karen trained hard with her “incredibly supportive” local running club, ’Mums on the Run’, and ran Race for Life in Solihull in memory of her friend.
“It was my first ever Race for Life and it was amazing and emotional – even though I detest running.
“I am incredibly honoured to be asked to start this year’s Solihull event and I hope my story will inspire lots more women to sign up for the event.”
Women can join Race for Life’s pink army and help beat cancer sooner by signing up at www.raceforlife.org or by calling 0300 123 0770.