October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so we spoke to the inspirational Brenda Pedley, who has raised more than £140,000 for charity after recovering from the disease.
It wasn’t Brenda’s intention to raise more than six figures for Cancer Research UK – that came about after a routine mammogram following her 50thbirthday that changed the course of her life.
“I got called back for a biopsy and was told I had precancerous cells. I made the decision instantly to have a mastectomy and to go on the list for a reconstruction,” remembers Brenda.
“On the day I went for my mammogram I had a bad back and I was worrying about whether it would be okay. The radiographer helped me with some special equipment to make me feel more comfortable and explained that the department had to raise money to buy it itself.
“After I had my surgery I was full of lots of different emotions, but I knew I had to do something. I decided to raise money to help other people going through something similar. My first pound was given to me when I was in hospital and back then I had no idea I would go on to raise as much as I now have,” says Brenda.
It started with one fundraiser 15 years ago, but continued and grew: “I got the bug then,” she says, “I loved it, and knowing the money was going to help other people, that was so important to me.”
Her first fundraiser collected more than £4,000 for charity. And so started her long journey that has seen Brenda fund vital research, organise dozens of events and personally be awarded accolades for her efforts.
From collections at her local rugby club, to asking her husband Alan to have his belly waxed; from auctions to choral evenings; from cream teas, to dinner dancers to walks – Brenda organises a range of activities every year to continue her fundraising efforts
Sophie Barber, who is Brenda’s support manager at Cancer Research UK, attended the evening and said she felt like she’d been transported to Paris thanks to the lavish décor.
In 2014 Brenda hit a significant milestone – £100,000 in charitable donations.
“I didn’t know I was anywhere near that figure,” she says. “I wasn’t really interested in hitting targets, I just wanted to keep raising money to help. I knew every penny was going towards doing something valuable. Cancer Research UK got in touch and told me I was up to £90,000 – I couldn’t believe it.”
Brenda emotionally recalls the moment she discovered the amount she had raised: “I was so, so chuffed. I was so special. I remember the night that we hit the £100,000. It was during an event. As the staff brought out two plates with dinner on them, they said ‘Brenda, these two dishes take you up to £100,000 in money raised.”
Whilst all of the money collected by Brenda goes towards vital research, in recent years money has been going to a specific project at Leicester University. “I was invited to support research that looks at finding cancer cells from DNA in the blood. I had to pledge to raise £20,000 over two years, but we managed that in the first year,” she says.
Brenda’s efforts have not gone unrecognised, as she’s received several awards for her charitable work. A highlight came in 2006, when she was invited to the Flame of Hope Awards, in London, and won the Fundraising in the Community award.
Many of the ideas and enthusiasm for the events are driven by Brenda, but she’s keen to acknowledge the many friends and relatives who help sell tickets, organise events and ensure the fundraisers happens. “I call them Pedley’s People,” she smiles. “There’s more than just me involved. Everyone who supports me is part of my people.”
Having raised more than £140,000 Brenda shows no sign of slowing down. “I haven’t got a particular ambition,” she says, “I’ll carry on with all of my events and if the fancy takes me to try something new, I’ll run with it. Whenever I think ‘I can’t do this anymore’, someone comes up to me and asks when the next event is.
If you’d like to know more about Breast Cancer Awareness, visit the Wear It Pink website.