Inspirational mum targets 20 challenges to match local cancer charity’s 20th anniversary

SUMMIT ELSE: Leigh Stevens with her son, Paul and husband, Jez on the Three Peaks Challenge

St John’s Primary School teacher and mum of four, Leigh Stevens has decided to undertake 20 challenges to fundraise for The Pickering Cancer Drop-In Centre on Monson Road, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in November.

After being diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in February 2022, Leigh was recommended by her hospital to get in contact with the Pickering Centre as it provides ‘excellent emotional support’ for those diagnosed with cancer and their family and friends.

Leigh told the Times that Polly Taylor and Caroline McGibney, who run the volunteer-led centre, have been ‘incredibly supportive to her and her family’ and she now hopes to be able to ‘pay them back’ for their kindness.

She added; “I’ve met other people when I’ve been going for treatment who aren’t aware of the centre. So, I wanted to be able to fundraise for Pickering but also just spread the word that there is support there if you need it.”

When deciding on her 20 challenges, Leigh said that she wanted to have a link between each challenge and its designated number.

For her first challenge, she ‘cast the ‘First’ stone’ by taking a dip in the freezing cold sea in Eastbourne on New Year’s Day. She then rode a ‘bicycle made for two’ with her husband Jez and completed a route across Tunbridge Wells in the shape of the number two. Her most recent experience was taking on the Three Peaks Challenge, scaling mountains Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon with her husband, and her son Tom. Leigh’s dad drove the trio and joined in with some of the foothills, meaning three generations of her family were involved.

Leigh described climbing Ben Nevis as ‘pretty hostile’ and the toughest challenge so far, due to the thick snow near the top, with the group needing to use crampons and ice axes to get to the summit.

Leigh hopes that her fundraising challenge will not only inspire people to raise money and awareness for local causes like the Pickering Drop-In Cancer Centre, but also help change attitudes around the fight against cancer.

She said: “I think when you’re given that diagnosis like that it’s such a shock and you initially have this feeling that you’ve just been given a death sentence. But actually, it’s about trying to change that mindset and think how am I going to live with this, make the most out of life and seek the glimmers in every day rather than the negative.

“I think it’s really, really important that we’re more open to talking about things that might not be quite right with us, so we can seek medical intervention sooner. Because the sooner you get the support, the sooner you can hopefully be treated and potentially beat it.”

Pickering Drop-In Cancer Centre co-founder Polly Taylor described Leigh as an ‘amazing woman’.

She explained: “Inspirational doesn’t even cut it – there are no words to describe how incredible Leigh is.

“She has literally taken Pickering’s name to the top of the mountains and shouted it for all to hear. She is the epitome of what Pickering is all about and we are so incredibly proud of her.”

If you would like to follow Leigh’s journey or donate, visit her fundraising page at:

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