CANCER survivor Richard Werno had been happy to leave Race for Life to the ladies until he was diagnosed with the disease for the second time.
He was so moved when members of his family took part at the Southampton event last year in tribute to him that he has decided to play a more active part himself this year.
Now Richard, 57, has been chosen to start the city event after registering as a volunteer. Part of his special role will include giving out medals at the finish line, the recipients of which will include members of his own family.
They include his nephew’s partner, Lara McGuinness, from Southampton, who has become a regular at the Cancer Research UK event since her grandmother died from cancer.
The whole family wants to encourage women in Hampshire to enter to raise money for the kind of research which helped Richard survive.
Richard was diagnosed with testicular cancer 13 years ago. He was successfully treated and tested clear of cancer until March last year when he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer.
He was in the middle of a course of chemotherapy and about to undergo major surgery when Lara invited Richard, his wife Aleks and their fouryear- old daughter Karolina to watch Race for Life.
“It was a very tough summer,” said Richard. “I had never been to Race for Life before and I found the whole experience very moving. Women of all ages were there. I was amazed and touched by the atmosphere.
That the ladies in my family were doing it with me in mind made it extra-special.”
Richard, who is doing well following his treatment, said: “I feel I have been given a rare extra chance and I wanted to show my gratitude by volunteering to help.”
This year, Lara’s parents are travelling to Southampton from Dublin so that her mum, Rebecca, can take part in Race for Life with her. “It is an incredible event,” said Lara, 31.
“Richard is the first person I have seen go through cancer treatment. He has faced so much but I have never once seen him without a smile on his face.”
It is hoped 10,000 women and girls in Southampton and Winchester will also play their part by raising over £500,000 for research into cancer, which affects 41,000 people in the south-east every year.
Winchester Race for Life takes place at the Garrison Ground, Bar End Road on Sunday, June 10 and the Southampton event will be held at The Common on Sunday, July 8.