A CAERPHILLY woman battling cancer is overwhelmed with the response to her fundraising appeal, after raising more than £9,000 following her diagnosis - with a little help from her friends.

Katrina Horrigan-Smith, 48 from Abercarn, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in June – which had spread to her pelvis and liver.

The fitness fan – who works as an occupational therapist for Blaenau Gwent Council – was shocked at the diagnosis but to keep herself motivated, she began to join in with the Cancer Research UK’s daily mile challenge.

South Wales Argus: Katrina before her diagnosisKatrina before her diagnosis

The challenge was to walk a mile a day for 31 days and raise money for the charity. Mrs Horrigan-Smith said: “I set the fundraising target for £500 to do my bit and raise a bit of money, hoping that some family and friends would donate.

“I’ve always been a very fit person, training everyday with my wife Danielle, and walking miles, so a mile a day wouldn’t be too bad – but I’m on crutches and it has been a lot more difficult.

“The fundraising has been overwhelming. So many people have got in touch and donated. We also have more funds which have been given to us outside of Facebook that haven’t been recorded on the Facebook page because you can only add so much to the fundraiser at a time.”

South Wales Argus: Katrina on one of her mile walks towards the start of the challengeKatrina on one of her mile walks towards the start of the challenge

At the time of writing, the fundraising total stands at £9,499, without the extra funds Mrs Horrigan-Smith mentioned.

About halfway through the challenge, Mrs Horrigan-Smith was unable to continue her mile due to illness - but her community of family and friends have all stepped in, doing their own mile – which has continued past the official Cancer Research UK fundraising challenge – a day in her place.


“When I took a turn for the worse, I mentioned it and asked if I could nominate someone to do the mile each day and they have done and have been posting pictures and videos which have kept me motivated to get back out there myself," she said.

“I’ve recently come out of hospital after a 13-day stay for an emergency operation but seeing everyone getting out there doing their mile has kept me motivated and over the past couple of days, I’ve been back out too.”

South Wales Argus: Katrina on her first mile post surgeryKatrina on her first mile post surgery

Mrs Horrigan-Smith wants to motivate people to get out and about and raising funds for charity with her story – and to spread awareness that cancer can appear in various ways.

“I want to raise awareness and funds for the charities, because without them, we wouldn’t have the treatments and knowledge available that is helping me and many others.

“I didn’t have the typical symptoms of cancer, it came as a complete shock. I want people to recognise if their body doesn’t feel right, or they have a niggle that’s frustrating them, to go and see a doctor because it could be nothing, or it could be something.”

Mrs Horrigan-Smith initially believed she had a sports injury after suffering from pain in her groin. She went to see a physiotherapist who after a few sessions said they couldn’t treat her because she was in too much pain.

“The physio told me to go and get an MRI, which I had at the end of April, because we thought I may have torn something.

“When the results came back, the consultant said that there was no injury, there was a disease on my pelvis, which looked like cancer.

“So I had a CT scan to see whether this was the primary source, or if the primary source was somewhere else and had spread.

“In June, I found out that the primary source is in my bowel and it has spread to my pelvis and liver.

“It was a shock to me and my family and friends. I’ve always been really fit, eat well, never smoked, so to find I have cancer when I thought I was just going to have to take a step back for a couple weeks to let an injury heal, came as a huge shock.”

The support of her family and friends is something that has been keeping Mrs Horrigan-Smith going. “Seeing people coming together and getting outside to do their mile has been really motivating for me and keeps me going to want to continue with the fundraising.

“I could sit here and cry every day because it really is horrible – not just for me but for my wife, children, family and friends. But I don’t want to. I want to keep myself as fit and healthy as I can.”

Mrs Horrigan-Smith is currently waiting to resume chemotherapy. She began the treatment following her diagnosis but now has to wait for more following her operation and recovery from that.

The next challenge Mrs Horrigan-Smith and her family and friends are taking on is to raise funds for Velindre and St David’s Hospice.

“Velindre have been a huge support to me throughout my chemotherapy and diagnosis. I have a nurse from St David’s Hospice who has been brilliant. I cannot fault any of them.”

Friend and colleague Katie Watkins, also from Abercarn and works as a social worker for Blaenau Gwent Council, is one of the many people to have taken part in the mile challenge for Mrs Horrigan-Smith.

Ms Watkins said: “She is a lovely person who does so much for everyone in her job and never asks for anything. It’s so nice to see so many people coming together to help.

“She wanted to set herself a challenge to keep her focused. When the idea to nominate someone to do a mile a day for her, we all jumped at the chance to help out.”

Ms Watkins did her mile around Folly Farm with her family and said how the social services team at the council are going to do the challenge and that Mrs Horrigan-Smith’s team have already completed the challenge themselves.

You can view and donate to the fundraising page here https://www.facebook.com/donate/537762590973418/