Cancer Research UK Race for Life Huddersfield

Published:

Imagine my shock when I received a phone call from the press officer at Cancer Research UK asking me to speak before the Race for Life on the main stage in front of the gathered crowd. Nicki Embleton rang me out of the blue and in all honesty my first reaction was “really? Me?” Then I was overwhelmed and so completely honoured that I said yes.
I then put the phone down realising that I hadn’t asked anything about the format, the length or what would happen on the day, a cloak of realisation washed over me as I became acutelyaware that these events are pretty popular and there could be an awful lot of people there. My track record for public speaking about cancer and how it has affected my friends and family isn’t the best as one occasion out of one has resulted in me breaking down in tears.
I started to panic.
Then I realised that I felt a sense of duty to myself and my friends that are battling and those that have been unlucky. I had a holiday planned for the week before so decided that I would put pen to paper when I felt relaxed and could fully focus.
My preparation the day before my speech was not the best, I awoke with a migraine at 3am then spent the morning being sick. Then when we landed at the airport and Manchester baggage handlers lost my suitcase. So inevitably we arrived home at 2am and had no sleep, which I knew would make me more susceptible to not controlling my emotions.


When we pulled up to the venue, the people on the gate asked if we were dropping off or taking part, I said “I am speaking before the race!” The response was oh wow you are the motivational speaker!!! It had been advertised, people were expecting me, I could not back out now.
I was nervous, I cannot imagine anyone not being if they care about what they are about to do. I was worried that I wouldn’t be received well and that I would have gone about it the wrong way. I was worried it wouldn’t be as motivational as they anticipated.

As the time ticked past I stood alone. I felt like I was on death row. I stepped out onto the stage and I stood there holding a microphone in my hand and my speech in the other. It felt like a bleak wilderness. Like I had replicated the manoevres of Scott of the antartic and stepped out into the cold.
My previous experience of speaking in public was to smaller groups on a more intimate basis. This was like nothing I had experienced before, 2000 plus participants, supporters and vendors. You cannot make eye contact, you cannot engage personally, you feel isolated and cannot gage how they feel about what you are saying.

It was freezing, blowing a Gail and was exhausted but I began to speak –

Cancer Research speech

 

Wow,
Heeeelloooo Huddersfield!!!!!
YAY I always wanted to do that in an entirely Rock band kind of style.
What an amazing number of people are here today!
My name is Emma Kirke, I am not a rock star, or a celebrity, I am a cancer survivor.

I have to admit it is a little daunting.
When I was first asked to speak today, my immediate response was “yes, I would be honoured!”
Then, when I put the phone down, I thought “Oh my life that will be a lot of people!” and got a little scared.
Then when I excitedly told my husband that I had been asked to speak before the start of the Race for Life in Huddersfield his response was “Wow like Mr Motivator?”

I am not quite sure I can fulfill that role, especially as I don’t own any spandex or leg warmers.

My journey with cancer began with a noteable family pattern on my Dad’s side. In October 2014, after many visits to genetics counsellors, Pinderfields hospital, scans and needle proddings in amounts that I care not to remember, I had that conversation, you know, the one with the surgeon and experts, the one where their faces get all serious and you know that its not going to be the best news. My family history combined with the multiple tumours in my right breast, meant that my tentatively concocted plan for a double mastectomy was not met with resistance when I suggested it, in was in fact praised as “the sensible option!”

Now I am completely aware that this may seem a little drastic but within my year of testing and research, I had met several ladies and gentlemen that wished everyday that they could abate the undeniable risk and the subsequent fear that they felt with every waking moment.

My risk score was the highest that the genetic counsellor had ever seen. I was unwilling to live in fear. The gene I have is not BRCA 1 or BRCA 2, so I am not at risk of Ovarian in particular, I have a Jewish inherited gene that predisposes me to Breast, Pancreatic, Brain and skin cancer.
We are all more than likely aware of the BRCA gene if not in large thanks to Angelina Joli and her openess about her preventative surgery. I am hoping that awareness of other genetic predispositions can become equally high placed, and the awareness that breast cancer affects both men and women equally can become common knowledege too. I have launched a Dare To Bare camapign in an attempt to raise awareness of breast cancer in both sexes, promote self confidence in our own skin, and hopefully raise £10,000 for Cancer Research in the process. If anyone would like to get involved, please look me up on social media.
In my story to this point all the tests I had endured and undertaken had been the sole knowledge of myself, my husband and my best mate Dave.

Telling my parents was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Harder than telling them I had crashed my car, or that I had accidentally broken the landing window, or even that I had adopted 4 chickens.
This news was something that I knew would hurt and scare them. It was something that they would not be able to forget and forgive like the landing window. I knew they would feel helpless and like they shoud have somehow protected me, or that they should be able to make it all better, just like parents feel they should be able to do for their kids. Yet I also knew that I would be ok. I felt strong and I knew I was making the right decision.

I tried as best as I could to convey this to them and to my friends and family. I cannot explain it but I felt that my previous life experiences had been a test run to get me through this moment. I never wained from my positity. At times, I was even branded too positive. Cancer Research UK embraced my positivity and my story. They even got on board when I did a series of photoshoots promoting a postive post op body image.
My positivity and my knowledeg meant that I meticulously planned my pre op fitness regimen, my post op rehab and my two week post op menu too. It was almost like a military operation during which I was fortunate that those people close to me understood why I was doing it all in this way and my reconstruction surgeon at Pinderfields was fabulous getting on board too. I was also fortunate that my husband Tony backed me to do things my way, and that I have been surrounded by postive and supportive friends and family.

This positivity has been my driver and in many ways I have cancer to thank for so many amazing experiences.

Without cancer I would not be here talking to you all today.
I would not have met so many fabulous people.
I would not have had a Top 40 UK chart single.
I would not have had the opportunity to work as a presenter on Kirklees Local TV

Of course I have had moments of undescribable pain and sadness along the way, when I lost my precious friend Emma last year, when I heard that a friend has to begin her own fight, or when that person on social media that reached out to me lets me know they have been diagnosed as terminal but are fighting with all their strength.
Despite all this I know that they would want me to live every minute for them as much as for myself. Any time I have second thoughts I hear Emma telling me to have belief in myself. I have to know my own worth and to embrace every moment.
What you do today, here, at this very moment, is nothing short of heroic.
The money you raise today could save the life of the person stood next to you, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a best friend.
You could have saved my life.
Our Knowledge about cancer and our better understanding of its Genetics is advancing our success and it is funded in large due to projects and events just like this.
I would personally like to thank you all for what you are doing and the differences you are making.
I would like to thank you on behalf of CRUK, as I know they appreciate everything that you do and every last pound and penny that you raise.
I would like to thank you on behalf of all of those unable to thank you themselves.
We are all warriors.
Enjoy your day, feel proud of all that you acheive, but in your hearts keep a little tear for those warriors who have not won their fight and hold hope for those still fighting.

So come on Huddersfield lets do this!!

This was my speech.
After I finished I was given a hug from one of the organisers and a grabbed a coffee before being made to feel like a celebrity by starting the race with the air horn and then holding the tape for the first finisher and then having the priviledge to hand out medals and get to meet the participants.
It was an amazing experience to meet fabulous people with incredibly inspiring stories. I got to talk to some of lifes most awesome warriors and discuss our battle scars.
There were all walks of life that had signed up to take part, there were women with dogs, women in fancy dress, women with their families, children through to grandmas.
I felt like a spy looking in on an intimate moment as they crossed the line for a loved ones memory. An unbelievable amount of care, support and empathy. It was refreshing to be in the company of so many people that empathised and sympathised with myself and my husband also. I feel like it was as beneficial for him as it was for me to experience this amazing event.


I would definitely be there next year and probably with my new boob partner in crime as we have some amazingly exciting plans afoot. Watch this space for myself and Gayle Griffin intend to spread some positivity and inspiration to our warrior sisters.
In truth this was an incredible experience and I was overwhelmed by the amount of love I received. I felt like a fraud in some respects as I never suffered that much and in my opinion there are far worse scenarios that could have played out for me. Ironically during my speech, in fact whilst I was stood on stage, my Dads cousin who lived with us when I was little and is like a sister to me, was rushed into hospital with septecaemia resulting from multiple inoperable tumours.

This disease does not have barriers. This disease will affect anyone and everyone. If you have never had a personal brush with it, it is very easy to sit an ivory tower and dictate what things people should and shouldn’t be doing or trying to do to help themselves. When you are told you have something inoperable honestly what would you do? Can you say hand on heart that as you sit there with proven evidence based medicine telling you that there is nothing else they can do for you, that you wouldn’t be willing to try something a little more unorthodox, perhaps even unsubstantiated?

I have seen the desperation that this disease causes, the devastation it leaves in its wake, and the lengths people are willing to go to in order to save a loved one.
I am not sure it is fair to ask you to answer until you have stood in those shoes. There are, without doubt ideas that are not evidence based and potentially dangerous for those that have a good prognosis, but for those with nothing to lose would you honestly deny them a chance at possible survival? Every treatment we have was untested, unsubstantiated and non evidence based to begin with, testing it with actual subjects is how it becomes evidence based.
I just ask you to think about it for a moment. Cancer Research UK has treatment volunteers to test pioneering new drugs and protocols all the time, there is a reliance on these people being willing to be a test subject.
I will be going into evidence based research in another article, but take a moment and contemplate what you would do.

I would love to hear feedback.

Imagine my shock when I received a phone call from the press officer at Cancer Research UK asking me to speak before the Race for Life on the main stage in front of the gathered crowd. Nicki Embleton rang me out of the blue and in all honesty my first reaction was “really? Me?” Then I was overwhelmed and so completely honoured that I said yes.
I then put the phone down realising that I hadn’t asked anything about the format, the length or what would happen on the day, a cloak of realisation washed over me as I became acutelyaware that these events are pretty popular and there could be an awful lot of people there. My track record for public speaking about cancer and how it has affected my friends and family isn’t the best as one occasion out of one has resulted in me breaking down in tears.
I started to panic.
Then I realised that I felt a sense of duty to myself and my friends that are battling and those that have been unlucky. I had a holiday planned for the week before so decided that I would put pen to paper when I felt relaxed and could fully focus.
My preparation the day before my speech was not the best, I awoke with a migraine at 3am then spent the morning being sick. Then when we landed at the airport and Manchester baggage handlers lost my suitcase. So inevitably we arrived home at 2am and had no sleep, which I knew would make me more susceptible to not controlling my emotions.


When we pulled up to the venue, the people on the gate asked if we were dropping off or taking part, I said “I am speaking before the race!” The response was oh wow you are the motivational speaker!!! It had been advertised, people were expecting me, I could not back out now.
I was nervous, I cannot imagine anyone not being if they care about what they are about to do. I was worried that I wouldn’t be received well and that I would have gone about it the wrong way. I was worried it wouldn’t be as motivational as they anticipated.

As the time ticked past I stood alone. I felt like I was on death row. I stepped out onto the stage and I stood there holding a microphone in my hand and my speech in the other. It felt like a bleak wilderness. Like I had replicated the manoevres of Scott of the antartic and stepped out into the cold.
My previous experience of speaking in public was to smaller groups on a more intimate basis. This was like nothing I had experienced before, 2000 plus participants, supporters and vendors. You cannot make eye contact, you cannot engage personally, you feel isolated and cannot gage how they feel about what you are saying.

It was freezing, blowing a Gail and was exhausted but I began to speak –

Cancer Research speech

 

Wow,
Heeeelloooo Huddersfield!!!!!
YAY I always wanted to do that in an entirely Rock band kind of style.
What an amazing number of people are here today!
My name is Emma Kirke, I am not a rock star, or a celebrity, I am a cancer survivor.

I have to admit it is a little daunting.
When I was first asked to speak today, my immediate response was “yes, I would be honoured!”
Then, when I put the phone down, I thought “Oh my life that will be a lot of people!” and got a little scared.
Then when I excitedly told my husband that I had been asked to speak before the start of the Race for Life in Huddersfield his response was “Wow like Mr Motivator?”

I am not quite sure I can fulfill that role, especially as I don’t own any spandex or leg warmers.

My journey with cancer began with a noteable family pattern on my Dad’s side. In October 2014, after many visits to genetics counsellors, Pinderfields hospital, scans and needle proddings in amounts that I care not to remember, I had that conversation, you know, the one with the surgeon and experts, the one where their faces get all serious and you know that its not going to be the best news. My family history combined with the multiple tumours in my right breast, meant that my tentatively concocted plan for a double mastectomy was not met with resistance when I suggested it, in was in fact praised as “the sensible option!”

Now I am completely aware that this may seem a little drastic but within my year of testing and research, I had met several ladies and gentlemen that wished everyday that they could abate the undeniable risk and the subsequent fear that they felt with every waking moment.

My risk score was the highest that the genetic counsellor had ever seen. I was unwilling to live in fear. The gene I have is not BRCA 1 or BRCA 2, so I am not at risk of Ovarian in particular, I have a Jewish inherited gene that predisposes me to Breast, Pancreatic, Brain and skin cancer.
We are all more than likely aware of the BRCA gene if not in large thanks to Angelina Joli and her openess about her preventative surgery. I am hoping that awareness of other genetic predispositions can become equally high placed, and the awareness that breast cancer affects both men and women equally can become common knowledege too. I have launched a Dare To Bare camapign in an attempt to raise awareness of breast cancer in both sexes, promote self confidence in our own skin, and hopefully raise £10,000 for Cancer Research in the process. If anyone would like to get involved, please look me up on social media.
In my story to this point all the tests I had endured and undertaken had been the sole knowledge of myself, my husband and my best mate Dave.

Telling my parents was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Harder than telling them I had crashed my car, or that I had accidentally broken the landing window, or even that I had adopted 4 chickens.
This news was something that I knew would hurt and scare them. It was something that they would not be able to forget and forgive like the landing window. I knew they would feel helpless and like they shoud have somehow protected me, or that they should be able to make it all better, just like parents feel they should be able to do for their kids. Yet I also knew that I would be ok. I felt strong and I knew I was making the right decision.

I tried as best as I could to convey this to them and to my friends and family. I cannot explain it but I felt that my previous life experiences had been a test run to get me through this moment. I never wained from my positity. At times, I was even branded too positive. Cancer Research UK embraced my positivity and my story. They even got on board when I did a series of photoshoots promoting a postive post op body image.
My positivity and my knowledeg meant that I meticulously planned my pre op fitness regimen, my post op rehab and my two week post op menu too. It was almost like a military operation during which I was fortunate that those people close to me understood why I was doing it all in this way and my reconstruction surgeon at Pinderfields was fabulous getting on board too. I was also fortunate that my husband Tony backed me to do things my way, and that I have been surrounded by postive and supportive friends and family.

This positivity has been my driver and in many ways I have cancer to thank for so many amazing experiences.

Without cancer I would not be here talking to you all today.
I would not have met so many fabulous people.
I would not have had a Top 40 UK chart single.
I would not have had the opportunity to work as a presenter on Kirklees Local TV

Of course I have had moments of undescribable pain and sadness along the way, when I lost my precious friend Emma last year, when I heard that a friend has to begin her own fight, or when that person on social media that reached out to me lets me know they have been diagnosed as terminal but are fighting with all their strength.
Despite all this I know that they would want me to live every minute for them as much as for myself. Any time I have second thoughts I hear Emma telling me to have belief in myself. I have to know my own worth and to embrace every moment.
What you do today, here, at this very moment, is nothing short of heroic.
The money you raise today could save the life of the person stood next to you, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a best friend.
You could have saved my life.
Our Knowledge about cancer and our better understanding of its Genetics is advancing our success and it is funded in large due to projects and events just like this.
I would personally like to thank you all for what you are doing and the differences you are making.
I would like to thank you on behalf of CRUK, as I know they appreciate everything that you do and every last pound and penny that you raise.
I would like to thank you on behalf of all of those unable to thank you themselves.
We are all warriors.
Enjoy your day, feel proud of all that you acheive, but in your hearts keep a little tear for those warriors who have not won their fight and hold hope for those still fighting.

So come on Huddersfield lets do this!!

This was my speech.
After I finished I was given a hug from one of the organisers and a grabbed a coffee before being made to feel like a celebrity by starting the race with the air horn and then holding the tape for the first finisher and then having the priviledge to hand out medals and get to meet the participants.
It was an amazing experience to meet fabulous people with incredibly inspiring stories. I got to talk to some of lifes most awesome warriors and discuss our battle scars.
There were all walks of life that had signed up to take part, there were women with dogs, women in fancy dress, women with their families, children through to grandmas.
I felt like a spy looking in on an intimate moment as they crossed the line for a loved ones memory. An unbelievable amount of care, support and empathy. It was refreshing to be in the company of so many people that empathised and sympathised with myself and my husband also. I feel like it was as beneficial for him as it was for me to experience this amazing event.


I would definitely be there next year and probably with my new boob partner in crime as we have some amazingly exciting plans afoot. Watch this space for myself and Gayle Griffin intend to spread some positivity and inspiration to our warrior sisters.
In truth this was an incredible experience and I was overwhelmed by the amount of love I received. I felt like a fraud in some respects as I never suffered that much and in my opinion there are far worse scenarios that could have played out for me. Ironically during my speech, in fact whilst I was stood on stage, my Dads cousin who lived with us when I was little and is like a sister to me, was rushed into hospital with septecaemia resulting from multiple inoperable tumours.

This disease does not have barriers. This disease will affect anyone and everyone. If you have never had a personal brush with it, it is very easy to sit an ivory tower and dictate what things people should and shouldn’t be doing or trying to do to help themselves. When you are told you have something inoperable honestly what would you do? Can you say hand on heart that as you sit there with proven evidence based medicine telling you that there is nothing else they can do for you, that you wouldn’t be willing to try something a little more unorthodox, perhaps even unsubstantiated?

I have seen the desperation that this disease causes, the devastation it leaves in its wake, and the lengths people are willing to go to in order to save a loved one.
I am not sure it is fair to ask you to answer until you have stood in those shoes. There are, without doubt ideas that are not evidence based and potentially dangerous for those that have a good prognosis, but for those with nothing to lose would you honestly deny them a chance at possible survival? Every treatment we have was untested, unsubstantiated and non evidence based to begin with, testing it with actual subjects is how it becomes evidence based.
I just ask you to think about it for a moment. Cancer Research UK has treatment volunteers to test pioneering new drugs and protocols all the time, there is a reliance on these people being willing to be a test subject.
I will be going into evidence based research in another article, but take a moment and contemplate what you would do.

I would love to hear feedback.