Laurence Carter will be arriving back in East Sussex in mid-June after spending an entire year walking over 3,500 miles around the entire coast of England and Wales, raising awareness of cervical cancer prevention and funds for Cancer Research UK after his wife lost her battle with the disease. His walk will finish on June 23 in Seaford where Cancer Research UK will be holding an event to celebrate his epic achievement!
Laurence has raised almost £60,000 so far for CRUK to fund research into increasing uptake of cervical screening (which is at a 20-year low) and HPV vaccines. With better rates of screening uptake and a full HPV vaccination programme, Laurence hopes cervical cancer can be wiped out for good.
Laurence met wife Melitta in June 1987 whilst they were both working in Malawi – Melitta was a volunteer at the Ministry of Agriculture, Laurence was an economist. By July 1989 they were married and their first child, Emily, was born in 1990, soon followed by Nic and Georgie. By then, Melitta and Laurence had moved to several different countries before settling in Washington DC. It wasn’t always easy, especially with small children, but they both loved travelling and saw it as an adventure.
In October 2012, Melitta went for a routine smear test. She had left it six months late – blaming holidays and a busy family life. Laurence recalls the moment his wife said “a bit of bad news,” when he came home that evening. “They’ve found signs of cervical cancer and I need an emergency hysterectomy, then chemotherapy and radiation.” Laurence listened in shock as she explained that doctors were hopeful it hadn’t spread.
As Melitta went through the gruelling treatment her family rallied around her – the children helping, friends cooking meals and keeping up family morale. Unfortunately, the following July, Melitta was told the cancer had spread. There was nothing more doctors could do, except start more chemo to extend what little time she had left.
Over the next few months, the family spent as much time together as they could. Melitta wrote a note to each of the children to be read after she died.
By April 2015, Melitta’s health started to decline and she died surrounded by family that September. Laurence says “I was completely lost without her. I kept thinking if only I’d reminded her to go for her smear test. I decided I wanted to raise awareness for cervical cancer in her memory and then an idea struck me – a walk around the UK. Melitta and I had loved walking, so I knew she’d approve.”
Laurence has taken a break from his role as a Director at the World Bank to walk the 3,500 miles of the coast of England and Wales. He hopes raise awareness that cervical cancer can be eliminated. All funds raised go to a Cancer Research UK-supported researcher who is identifying ways to raise awareness about preventing cervical cancer. Laurence started near Brighton in June 2018 and he has since walked along the south coast, Devon, Cornwall and Wales, and is now in the East of England.
The tragedy is it doesn’t have to be this way, cervical cancer is the first cancer which can be eliminated, through HPV vaccination and good screening. Progress has been dramatic in the past few years. The main barrier is awareness.
“I still miss my wife every single day, but knowing I’m making a difference gives me comfort and the strength to keep walking. Melitta was the love of my life from the very first moment I’d seen her in that yellow dress.” – Laurence
If you would like to follow the remaining miles of Laurence’s journey. visit his website www.3500toendit.com
Text COAST10 to 70200 to donate to Laurence’s campaign for Cancer Research.