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LAUREN AND PERCY PREPARE TO WALK ALL OVER CANCER

When you’re a teenager and going through a tough time with cancer, you need a best friend. Lauren Ashby had to look no further than her four-legged pal Percy.
While she was undergoing treatment, Lauren poured what energy she had into training her puppy. Now the three-year-old Cockapoo has repaid her by earning a coveted place at Crufts.
Lauren, 16, and her family, have high hopes for Percy in the world-famous agility classes, but they are also keen to give something back, so are supporting Cancer Research UK’s ‘Walk All Over Cancer’ campaign which asks people to walk 10,000 steps a day, every day in March, and raise money for the charity’s life-saving research.

Lauren, from Horsham, first became poorly in January 2017 when she was 13. She was suffering from night sweats, weight loss, extreme fatigue, persistent cough and itchy skin, and she developed lumps on her neck. They didn’t know it at the time, but these can all be symptoms of Hodgkin Lymphoma.

Lauren’s mum, Dominique, said: “We felt idiotic listing all these things to the GP, but we just decided to do it. The GP thought it was a virus, but I just felt uneasy that something wasn’t right.”

Lauren seemed so poorly that Dominique rang the NHS helpline and eventually Lauren was referred for hospital tests and diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin Lymphoma. She began six months of chemotherapy, followed by three-monthly scans.

All seemed well until January 2018, when Lauren had a relapse. She started treatment again but it wasn’t proving effective, so Lauren had a stem cell transplant in June, followed by 17 daily radiotherapy sessions. Then she returned to three-monthly reviews.

She now has no active cancer, however, doctors discovered the treatment had weakened the left side of her heart. The damage is not repairable, but it can be contained with regular cardiac care at St Thomas’s Hospital in London.

While Lauren was in treatment, she was studying for her GCSEs – and came out with an impressive seven at A grade or above! When she needed a break from her books, she threw herself into training Percy.

Lauren said: “All through my treatment I tried to focus on things we could do together. Even when my blood counts were low, I kept active and that kept my muscle strength up. Walking and training him definitely helped me through.”

Dominique said that, on days when Lauren was unwell, Percy would stay protectively at her side. When she had home school lessons, he would sit patiently waiting outside the door.

On one occasion, Lauren was so determined not to miss out, that Dominque gave Lauren a bone-marrow boosting injection during an agility competition and then they went straight from the show ring to the hospital to have her stem cell harvest.

“We turned up looking like Hill Billy’s covered in grass and dust! But it was good for all of us to be there,” said Dominique.

Now Lauren is studying for A levels in sociology, politics and environmental science and preparing Percy for Agility Dog of The Year and ABC Agility at Crufts.

Dominique is “full of pride” for Lauren: “Her sheer determination to try to get through her treatment with positivity has been incredible. She has kept focussed throughout on things to achieve.
“Having Percy has been a massive part of all that, giving her companionship and fun – usually when he’s being naughty! – and a focus throughout. They have an amazing bond and he’s definitely a loveable rogue!

“Lauren’s dream is to make it onto the winners podium. It’s all about the fun of it for Percy and he thrives on all the attention!”
Research has shown that in the South East, almost a quarter (22 per cent) of people get less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week*.

People can tackle the Walk All Over Cancer challenge in their own way – on their own, with family or friends, or with a dog.

Lynn Daly, Cancer Research UK spokeswoman for the South East, said: “We hope lots of people will be inspired to follow in Lauren and Percy’s footsteps.

“Taking part in Walk All Over Cancer is a great way to help Cancer Research UK – and keep your hound happy too.

“Based on the average person’s strides, 10,000 steps is equal to about five miles, which is quite a challenge for many people. But adopting small changes that you can stick too – from walking to work or taking the stairs instead of the lift – will help make the goal feel achievable.

“Not only will taking on the challenge help raise money, but it has health benefits too. Moderate exercise can help build stamina, burn calories and keep a healthy body weight, which reduces the risk of 13 different types of cancer.
“Walking has positive effects on the body mind too – it can generate a sense of well-being and help people think more creatively.
“Cancer survival has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress – but every step our doctors, nurses and scientists take relies on donations from the public and the tireless fundraising of our supporters.

“There are over 200 types of cancer and we need continued investment in research to help us find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat them.  That’s why we need people to step up to the challenge and Walk All Over Cancer.”
To sign up and receive a fundraising pack, with tips and ideas to help with the challenge, visit cruk.org/walkallover

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