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Race for Life Cambridge 2022: Family of Tracey Ryan to ring starting bell in her memory as they Race for Trace

A Cambridge family will ring the bell to start Sunday’s Race for Life in Cambridge in memory of a devoted mother, grandmother and wife who died from cancer in May, having survived almost 20 years since her first diagnosis.

Tracey Ryan, of Cherry Hinton, was a familiar face at the Cancer Research UK fundraising event in previous years, cheering on loved ones as they raised thousands of pounds towards research they credit with giving them extra time together.

Tracey Ryan
Tracey Ryan

Tracey got clear of a malignant melanoma in her left eye, which was diagnosed in October 2003, by having the eye removed.

But the cancer eventually returned in her liver and spread to other parts of her body.

She was told the disease was terminal around 2015, and took part in various clinical trials. Those helped her for a few more years until she was told she potentially had just months left to live.

Race for Trace team members
Race for Trace team members

But Tracey - formerly a psychiatric nurse at the Ida Darwin Hospital in Fulbourn, who later enjoyed work at the Rosie Hospital in Cambridge - continued to defy the odds, remaining “the person everyone relied on” until May, 7, 2022, when she died at the age of 56.

About 15 close family members have taken part in Race for Life since 2013, including with Tracey on occasions she was well enough.

They will be joined by another 30-40 friends and relatives this weekend.

Sophie, Tracey’s eldest daughter, said: “Mum was just an amazing woman. She fought hard and all of us felt we had extra time together due to cancer research. She was a massive supporter of Cancer Research UK through Race for Life, so it will mean a lot to be able to start this year’s event in her memory.”

Recalling her mum’s diagnosis, Sophie said: “She went for a routine eye test and a shadow was found on the back of her left eye. Two weeks later she was in Sheffield having her eye removed and she was given the all-clear after. Over about a year, she was then fitted with a glass eye.

“She was all right for quite a few years, then at one of her routine check-ups some spotting on her liver was noticed. It was then confirmed she had secondary cancer of the liver. She had a liver resection, in which they tried to remove as much as they could, followed by treatment. It slowly started to grow back and she had specialist treatments.

Race for Trace team members (57703523)
Race for Trace team members (57703523)

“It had grown back quite significantly after a couple of years. By this point, it had also spread to various other places in her body, so mum had two rounds of immunotherapy and even a hysterectomy.

“She was offered the chance to take part in a trial. This was something she was happy to do to help other people in the long run.

“Around 2015 she was told the disease was terminal and there wasn’t really a lot they could do, other than buy her more time. This is what was most valuable in the end.

“Even after a bleak prognosis, she just found a way to carry on. I think by that point they didn’t know how she was doing it. She stopped having her MRI scans as she didn’t want to know the progression of the disease.

“She did really well and I think her mindset made a big difference. No matter what information they were throwing at her, she said ‘I’m not being just a number’.

“She was so chirpy and never stopped being that person everyone relied on.”

Race for Trace team members
Race for Trace team members

Sophie added: “It was hard for us, but she was always considering our feelings before her own and told us everything we needed to know in a way that didn’t worry us. She always said she’d know when she was ready. She knew exactly what she wanted to do and was in control right up until she died.”

Tracey was married to Benjamin Ryan. She had six children, Sam, Sophie, Kira, Noah, Rianna and Ascia, aged from 17 to 34, and seven grandchildren, aged two to 12.

Some of them will be among those at Sunday’s Race for Life and the ‘Race for Trace’ team has already collected over £2,000 in donations ahead of the event.

Sophie said: “She always asked us to do it for her. She took part a couple of times when she was able to. Usually, she would come with us and take part in the warm-up, then wait for us at the end. Obviously, everyone’s there for the same reason and the atmosphere is just incredible.

“It will be incredibly difficult not having mum waiting for us at the end this year, but we know she’ll be with us in some way, and we’ll be ringing the bell for her and all of those who never got that chance.”

Tracey Ryan in treatment
Tracey Ryan in treatment

Each year around 37,300 people are diagnosed with cancer in the East of England.

One in two people in the UK born after 1960 will get cancer in their lifetime.

Money raised at Race for Life enables scientists to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

About 2,700 runners will take part, from 11am on Jesus Green.

Look out for our complete guide to Race for Life - and don’t miss our online gallery on Sunday and picture special inside the Cambridge Independent, out from July 6.

To enter a Race for Life, visit raceforlife.org or to offer your services as a volunteer email kirsten.shore@cancer.org.uk.

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