Christine in the jersey she helped to design (Picture: Rapha)
Christine O’Connell was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, but after months of treatment, was given the all clear.
Six years later, the keen cyclist was out on her bike when she had a seizure.
After being rushed to hospital she was told it had returned – but had already spread to her bones and brain.
Sadly, in 2018, she was told it was stage 4 and incurable.
In the three years since her second diagnosis, she set up an annual cycling appeal called One More City.
The campaign focuses on funding research into advanced, or ‘metastatic’ breast cancer, where the disease has spread round the body, most recently funding a PhD student at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, in collaboration with Imperial College London.
While the cycling range will help to raise funds as all profits will go towards supporting a new breast cancer PhD studentship, Christine also wanted to spread awareness of how to check your breasts.
In an inner pocket of each of the jerseys is a label inspired by diagrams about how to check your breasts, and accompanied by the words: ‘Grab a handful. Curvy roads ahead.’
The label in the pocket (Picture: Rapha)
The label is in a pocket typically used by cyclists to store cards or keys, and Christine hopes that when people empty their pockets, they will see the message and be encouraged to become aware of their breasts, or to pass the message on to a family member or friend.
Maria Olsson, who used to be Head of Design at Rapha, came up with the idea for the collection while working there. She explained:
‘The story label idea grew from wanting to bring some light into the severity of the topic of cancer. I wanted to take something that is serious and heart-breaking in many ways, and put a light-hearted spin on it.
‘The message is the same, and the importance of being aware of your own body was the key driver, but also taking time for yourself and not being afraid or ashamed of your own body. Cycling was the natural way to connect the two.’
Christine hopes the money will go towards creating and developing new treatment options for patients with advanced breast cancer by bringing together the best resources and innovative research methods of two of the UK’s leading cancer research centres.
Despite the best treatments available for primary breast cancer, an estimated 20-30% of women and men will go on to develop metastatic, or secondary, disease, by which point it will be incurable.
Christine O’Connell said: ‘I’m really pleased to be part of this collection. If seeing that label reminds even just one person to check their breasts, or to speak to a family member about it, it will be worth it.
‘On average, someone only lives for three years after a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer, and it’s now three years since my diagnosis.
‘I’m fortunate my treatment still seems to be working, but I know my cancer will eventually develop resistance, and that’s why One More City is focused on funding research at the ICR – so more treatment options can be found for anyone living with a secondary diagnosis.’
Dr Rachael Natrajan, who heads the Breast Cancer Functional Genomics Team at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: ‘Research advances mean more people with advanced breast cancer are now living longer with a much better quality of life.
‘But knowing their cancer can develop resistance to treatment is a constant fear.
‘We’re really grateful for the support we receive from Christine and One More City. With their help, we hope to be able to discover better treatments for people with advanced breast cancer and give them the opportunity to live the lives they want.’
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