Who Cares Wins award for hero stepping up to help cancer patients
Jo Taylor has terminal cancer and says the 3-mile Nordic walk she takes every day does wonders for her physical and mental health.
She said, “You think you’re going to be tired, but it gives you a buzz. When you find something that you love you want to get out there and do it. And if you can do it with other people that’s even better.”
The 53-year-old doesn’t just talk about the benefits of exercise for women with breast cancer – she helps as many as she can get active at 5 free retreats she runs each year near her home in Yorkshire. The 3-day events introducing participants to jogging, Nordic walking and yoga, are supported by funding made possible by National Lottery players.
Jo said, “The retreat is just a taster of what you can do. I don’t always expect people to take up jogging or Nordic walking – they have to find the thing that works for them. I had one lady who took up CrossFit and another who started riding a bike again after 35 years.”
Support from The National Lottery plays a vital role in keeping the heavily oversubscribed retreats up and running. She said, “It [the funding] has helped massively. National Lottery funding has been a game changer for us as a small organisation that relied on grants and donations.”
Jo’s indefatigable efforts to support women with breast cancer have not gone unnoticed. She has been chosen as The National Lottery's Local Health Hero in The Sun’s Who Cares Wins Awards 2022.
Jo said, “The award is quite surreal, but absolutely fantastic after years of hard work. Gaining recognition for the work I have done and being the Local Health Hero is something I could only dream about. But I always felt one day the work with the retreats would be recognised and I’m extremely proud of this achievement.”
When Jo was first diagnosed with cancer, she struggled to adjust. She said, “It was a massive shock. There was no breast cancer in the family. You always think it’s genetic and that’s wrong. A relatively small percentage of people are diagnosed with hereditary cancer.”
Then, 7 years after her first diagnosis and just as she was contemplating going back to work, she learned her cancer had returned. Since then, she has had 12 surgical procedures, including having most of her sternum removed and replaced, and lives with incurable metastatic breast cancer (MBC).
Far from being overwhelmed, the mother of 2 teenagers does everything in her power to help others affected by the disease. Her project After Breast Cancer Diagnosis (ABCDiagnosis) provides women with vital information and support as well as introducing them to the benefits of exercise.
Jo said, “Before I was diagnosed I was a keen runner and I had the idea to get patients motivated by exercise. At the time people didn’t promote exercise to cancer patients – they thought they were a bit like china dolls. The opposite is true. You need to be exercising – it helps with fatigue, keeping weight off and mental health.”
Jo organised her first retreat 6 years ago for 9 people. Nowadays, they accommodate up to 55 people and there’s a long waiting list for each one.
She said, “They come on a Friday and we have a meal and tell our stories. Then on Saturday morning we do a guided jog-walk. Some of them have never exercised, others are triathletes, but they all get something out of it. It’s not just about the exercise – it’s the connections you make.”
The Sun’s Who Cares Wins Awards will be shown on Channel 4 on Sunday 27th November 2022 at 6:30pm.
Originally published 14th September 2022. Updated 25th November 2022.
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