A Norfolk cancer survivor recognised by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for her inspiring community work

A Norfolk cancer survivor recognised by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for her inspiring community work, is urging people to take part in Cancer Research UK Race For Life.

Laura Middleton-Hughes, from Norwich, recently received a Points of Light award after founding ‘Secondary Sisters’ in 2019, an online support group of more than 28,000 people living with secondary cancer. Now, in memory of cofounder Nicky Newman who died from cancer last year, the 36-year-old former hairdresser, is urging people across Norfolk to take part in Cancer Research UK Race for Life to help raise money for vital research.

By sharing her experience, Laura hopes to motivate people to get involved and help generate funds, raise awareness and accelerate life-saving research. Since it began in 1994, more than 10 million people have taken part in Race for Life, raising over £970m for life-saving treatment

Laura knows exactly how vital it is to raise funds for life-saving research. Money raised will help scientists find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancers - moving closer to a world where everyone can live longer, better lives.   

Laura said: “There is nothing closer to my heart than supporting Race For Life and raising money for research that might one day eradicate this awful disease. We lost Nicky last year who has been an inspiration for many thousands of women with her courage, determination and support and I know, if she was here right now, she would feel exactly the same way as I do about the need for fund raising and awareness.”  

It was in 2019, whilst on a photoshoot for a cancer campaign, when Laura met Nicky Newman, who was also undergoing treatment for secondary cancer. The two women bonded and set up ‘Secondary Sisters’ with the aim of creating an online community to bring together and support women with the same prognosis, while also raising awareness and education around secondary cancers.

CRUK Stand Up To Cancer campaign with Nicky Newman (left) and Laura Middleton-Hughes known as the Secondary Sisters who have painted messages over their bodies
Photograph taken by Simon Dack / Vervate

The online Secondary Sisters community grew to a huge network around the country, helping people going through secondary cancers, with in-person meet ups. 

Nicky’s husband Alex Newman said: “The loss of my bean (Nicky) was truly devastating and felt by so many around the world and not just those close to us. The work Nicky did and Laura continues to do in order to raise awareness and funds for charity, is so important, and by taking part in the ‘Cancer Research Race For Life’ events you can help raise these vital funds.”

In presenting her award, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “I was inspired to learn of the extraordinary community of Secondary Sisters you built with Nicky Newman. Together you have helped more than 28,000 other women, ensuring they do not have to face this ordeal alone. I am so sorry that Nicky passed away and so grateful that you have carried on your vital work — and that you continue to do everything you can for as long as you can. I know you have also raised thousands of pounds for other cancer charities and helped to increase wider awareness of secondary cancer through numerous campaigns.”

Laura, who has campaigned for cancer awareness and education since her diagnosis aged just 25, said: “I am totally blown away after receiving the Points of Light award. This is a huge honour and a wonderful surprise.”

“Co-founding ‘Secondary Sisters’ alongside my late friend Nicky has to be one of my proudest achievements, and after she passed away last year, I always knew I wanted to continue the good work we started and keep it going, helping many more along the way.”

“I do what I do with all the many charities I support, and the secondary community because it gives me a purpose and helping others has always been a huge priority of mine. I certainly never expected anything in return, but to be recognised for this from the Prime Minister has made me feel so proud of all I have achieved alongside living with my own incurable cancer diagnosis.”

“I intend to continue doing all I can, whilst I can and for as long as I can because if it can help make a small difference to just one person’s life and help them feel less alone, it is worth everything. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this award, it really does mean the world.”

Patrick Keely, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson in the East of England, said: “We are grateful to Laura for her support and know her and Nicky’s story will make an impact on everyone who hears it.  Sadly nearly 1 in 2 of us will get cancer in our lifetime. Race for Life has the power not only to transform lives, but to save them. We’re proud that Race for Life has already helped double survival rates in the UK”.    

 “We’d love for as many people as possible across the country to join us at Race for Life. There is an event for everyone and we mean everyone. Walk, jog, run or take on the course however it suits best. It’s a chance to feel the power of moving together with fellow Race for Lifers and to treasure that moment of crossing the  finish line.  Whether people are living with cancer, are taking part in honour of or in memory of a loved one with the disease, or are in it for the medals or just for the fun of fundraising, there is a place for everyone.”   

Money raised has helped develop radiotherapy which benefits more than 130,000 people with cancer in the UK every year. Cancer Research UK funded scientists led the development of the Human Papillomavirus Virus vaccine, which is expected to prevent almost 90 per cent of cervical cancers in the UK. The charity also funded many large clinical trials looking at the effectiveness of the drug tamoxifen and the research shaped the way the drug is used to treat breast cancer today.   

Andy Curran, Chief Executive of Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group, said: “We are incredibly proud to continue as headline sponsor for Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, with the opportunity to encourage participation across the country.  “By working to raise funds for life-saving research, we can move towards a future where people live longer and healthier lives, free of cancer.”  

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with headline sponsor Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group, is an inspiring series of 3k, 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids events which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer by funding crucial research.   

For details of Race for Life please visit raceforlife.org  . Find out more about the ‘Secondary Sisters’  Instagram @baldbooblessandbeautiful 

CRUK Stand Up To Cancer campaign with the Secondary Sisters Nicky Newman (left) and Laura Middleton-Hughes
Photograph taken by Simon Dack / Vervate