A Shetland couple will walk along the Great Wall of China to raise funds for a charity which funds pioneering research into one of the most deadly cancers for women.
Rita and Dean Wiseman, both 47, will set off in less than three months’ time for the trek in aid of The Eve Appeal (the Gynaecological Cancer Reserch Fund) that is seeking to halve death rates. Gynaecological cancers are the fourth largest cancer killers of women.
Rita and Dean will fly to Beijing on 17th September and spend around a week walking the Great Wall, in company with others from all over the UK who will be fund-raising for the same charity.
Rita, a nurse who is originally from Unst, decided on the venture when she came across an article on fundraising for The Eve Appeal in a magazine. It touched a chord as her mother had died of gynaecological cancer in the 1960s at the age of 32, leaving four young children.
Two weeks after deciding to go to China, Rita heard from a close friend in Aberdeen that she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She died on Tuesday, only five months after diagnosis.
The term gynaecological cancer covers five types of cancer of the female reproductive organs, including ovarian and cervical cancer. Compared to breast cancer, which has an 80 per cent survival rate, gynaecological cancers have a survival rate of only 35 per cent. Every year over 7,000 women across the UK are diagnosed with ovarian cancer – 5,000 will die.
The Wisemans are embarking on a series of fundraising events in the build-up to their China expedition, for which they have to raise £2,200 each. They themselves will provide an additional £700 each for flights and accommodation in hostels so all funds raised go to the charity.
Their efforts for The Eve Appeal will start with a coffee morning in the Town Hall tomorrow. Family and friends have all been baking.
The Wisemans also plan to open a charity shop for the first week of August – the location has not yet been decided but donations of “anything” including clothes, toys and books would be welcome. They have also appealed to shops and were particularly touched by a donation of a hand-knitted Fair Isle jumper.
And on 30th August they intend to stage Britain’s most northerly haircut at Muckle Flugga. The hairdresser will be Andrew Gray from Shetland who owns the Biyoni salon in Aberdeen and has done Britain’s highest haircut on Ben Nevis. The couple have already spoken to Edmund Nicolson, who runs boat trips to Muckle Flugga, and to the Northern Lighthouse Board who own it.
The “quick trim” of Rita’s hair will be a fundraising event rather than a sponsored one, and has been attracting a lot of interest (although it may take place in another “furthest north” location if tides and weather are not favourable).
The main event, however, will be the China walk.
The Wisemans are currently training for it by walking the length of Shetland, from Unst to Sumburgh. They divided Shetland into eight sections and are now halfway through their self-imposed training programme, having done four of the eight legs. In total they will walk around 108 miles, roughly the distance they will cover on the Great Wall.
The wall is paved in places and can be steep as it follows the contours of the hills, and there is a 400-step stone staircase at one point. It could be strenuous as the walk will be carried out in temperatures around 26 degrees.
The training has been “great”, Rita said. “We would have never thought of walking the length of Shetland if we hadn’t done this.” They are avoiding the main roads as much as possible and Dean said they have been rewarded with beautiful sights at Fethaland and Sumburgh.
He said they have bought sunhats and backpacks, the weight of these roughly equivalent to the weight of the lunch and water they will carry every day (their luggage being transported from place to place daily).
They have also got walking poles to help them walk. “It’s impossible to slouch,” said Dean. Their training has made them much fitter and both have lost weight for the good cause.
Now the excitement is building, with the couple looking forward to the challenge, the cultural change and to seeing China.
And they are already getting a lot of support for a subject that is close to people’s hearts. Rita said: “We want to raise as much money and as much awareness as possible. I feel a big responsibility – it’s not easy fundraising but we’re getting a lot of help.”
She made a plea for a good turnout to the coffee morning tomorrow and for people to give as generously as possible.
Above all she wants women, especially those over 50, to be aware of the signs and symptoms of gynaecological cancers, which include persistent pelvic and abdominal pain, increased abdominal size with constant bloating and difficulty in eating accompanied by a feeling of being full. It should no longer be treated as a “silent killer” which has been the case in the past, she said, pointing out that cervical smears do not detect ovarian cancer. More information about the symptoms of gynaecological cancers can be found at www.eveappeal.org.uk.
For concerns about ovarian cancer visit www.ovacome.org.uk or phone 0845 371 0554.
• To give donations to the charity shop appeal or for information about sponsorship contact the Wisemans on (01595) 692961 and to provide sponsorship go to www.justgiving.com/ritawiseman or www. justgiving.com/deanwiseman