When Rachel Merchant was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in October 2019, she knew she was in for a tough year.

“I just heard the word cancer and thought 'oh my god'. It happened so quickly I didn’t even have time to digest it properly,” she said. 

After receiving the all clear from St George's Hospital in January, the 44-year-old mum signed up to Cancer Research’s initiative Race for Life, joining an energetic community hoping to beat cancer.

Race for Life’s first ever event took place in Battersea, over 25 years ago. Since, it has turned into the charity’s biggest fundraiser, raising over £500 million towards beating cancer.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this October’s event on Clapham Common, was cancelled.

But Ms Merchant, who lives on Hydethorpe Road, refused to let this dampen her spirits. After hearing about supporters pitching in from home, she hosted her own Race for Life on Tooting Common last Sunday (12 July).

Despite joking that she can “barely run for a bus”, the mother-of-four completed the 5k race in an impressive 23 minutes 10 seconds.

“The whole moment eats away at you and you don’t realise you’re running as fast as you are. I think it was emotion that kept me going.

"It was a bit surreal really, I was running for something I've had and could possibly get again in the future.”

Ms Merchant was spurred on by her daughter, Olivia, who signed her up to the initiative, and her two sons, Perry and Jack, who gathered friends and family to cheer her across the finish line.

Exhausted, she was greeted by a wall of pink – from people wearing clothing or holding balloons to show their support for the cancer charity.

Ms Merchant was also overwhelmed by donations from Ravenstone school, where she works as a teaching assistant.

“It was such an emotional day. When I finished, I collapsed in tears on the floor,” she said.

It is uncertain when official Race for Life fundraising runs will resume, but the charity has already raised over £100k through at home initiatives. Cancer survivors such as Ms Merchant, are clearly coming out in full force.

“Here I am and smiling - that's the main thing. I spent so many months crying and worrying.”

You can get involved by signing up to the Race for Life at Home, taking on any exercise challenge you want and share your activity using #RaceforLifeAtHome