Video: VIP cancer campaigner from Harborough sounds horn for Leicester's Race for Life

Sophie made it on stage alongside her angel doll mascots
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A former dance school owner from Harborough, who has battled cancer for five years, was invited the Leicester Race for Life as a VIP guest starter.

Sophie Williams sounded the horn to kick of the charity’s 30th annual race in Victoria Park, on Sunday, where some 1,500 people took part to raise money for research to find treatment for all forms of cancer.

Sophie herself was diagnosed with stage four anal cancer in 2018, and became the first survivor of a pioneering 12-hour operation to remove a tumour the size of a melon and rebuild her internal pelvic area using stomach muscle.

Sophie starts the 5k event part of the day.Sophie starts the 5k event part of the day.
Sophie starts the 5k event part of the day.

After a long recovery in hospital, more high-risk surgery and intense radiotherapy, Sophie was given the devastating news the cancer had spread and was incurable.

Her last hope is a six-month course of chemotherapy that has just ended.

Though the 52-year-old can’t venture too far from home, she made it on stage alongside her angel doll mascots – a symbol of love and hope – conceived by her crafty mum Jan to boost her fundraising campaign, ‘Yeah But No Butt’. The peg dolls have also raised around £10,000 for Cancer Research UK.

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Supporters had a special message made up for Sophie.Supporters had a special message made up for Sophie.
Supporters had a special message made up for Sophie.

Sophie said: “I’m determined not to give up. In fact, I refuse to give up. I’ve been wanting to do Race for Life for years, but I haven’t been well enough. I was really excited about taking the angels with me this year.”

The tiny two-inch ‘angels’ are fast becoming an internet hit after friends and family began posting snapshots of them across the UK and abroad - from local supermarkets to Los Angeles, Paris and even at Harry Styles’ Wembley Stadium concert.

Sophie William’s wish is that her angels will reach all the places she can’t as a symbol of hope and love.

She added: “I really want to help raise awareness of anal cancer and the need for more research. It’s the research that gives us hope and keeps you going as a cancer patient, hoping that something new will come along.”

Sophie with her mum and dad.Sophie with her mum and dad.
Sophie with her mum and dad.

This year’s Leicester event has so far raised £144,000 – an amount expected to grow as the money raised on Sunday continues to tot up.

Event manager Shawnee Fryer said: "It was a fantastic day and we'd like to thank all our amazing participants and volunteers for their support. We were especially honoured to be joined by Sophie Williams who sounded the horn to start the 5k event with her beautiful peg doll angels. Sophie has been through so much since her diagnosis, yet has managed to raise an incredible £10,000 so far.

“The atmosphere at Leicester was hugely moving - full of emotion, courage, tears and laughter as people celebrated the lives of those who have survived cancer and remembered loved ones lost to the disease. Life-saving research is being funded right now thanks to supporters like this.

“Now we’re asking everyone who took part to return the money they’re raised as soon as possible. Funds raised - whether it’s £10 or £100 - will help scientists find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, helping save more lives.”