Founder of cancer charity based in West Sussex village presented with British Empire Medal

​​The visionary who founded Angmering-based charity Cancer United has been presented with the British Empire Medal for services to people with cancer in West Sussex.

Jan Sheward received her personalised medal from the Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex, Lady Emma Barnard, at Ham Manor Golf Club this morning.

A cancer survivor herself, she set up Cancer United in 2014 to promote the benefits of exercise for cancer patients. She received the award in this year's New Year's Honours List.

Lady Emma told her: "It's quite something what you've done, you've changed the lives of so many people."

Jan said she had learned two Cancer United members had 'persistently nominated' her for the award and she thanked them for believing in her.

Reading the citation, Georgina Fitzalan-Howard, Duchess of Norfolk, said: "When her own cancer was diagnosed, Jan was told that she would not be able to return to the gym and the fitness activities that she had previously enjoyed.

"She therefore pursued safe and cancer-focused forms of exercise, completing the Race For Life only six months after going into remission.

"Cancer United supports and promotes this complementary programme of activity, growing from a small group of just ten members to over 800, with many more taking part in its activities.

"With support from Barratt Homes, Jan raised over £65,000 to convert a large double garage into a fully-equipped gym and Cancer United now offers classes and activities that include pilates, yoga, walking football, dancing, running and Nordic walking.

"Approximately 5,000 sessions take place each year, run by four paid instructors. Two minibuses provide transport for members with mobility difficulties and a mobile pop-up gym takes activities out to other communities. Cancer United has continued to broaden the activities it offers, which now also include a 50-strong choir OutSingCancer.

"To promote the charity's work further, Jan has created the CUFITTER Award in Applied Delivery of Cancer Exercises, an accreditation for personal trainers and gyms elsewhere in the country. She is currently working to open a national centre for cancer survivorship as a permanent home for the charity."

Jan said she owed a lot to her late friend Nigel Lewis-Baker, who she met in 2010 as a fellow Cancer Research campaigns ambassador. She pointed out Nigel was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 2004 and yet lived another 20 years.

She thanked guests and said over 12 years, they had played a great part in her journey, helping and supporting her to create the 'unique cancer support system' that is Cancer United.

She thanked the many people who had embraced her vision of exercise for cancer patient recovery, including lead trainer Dwayne Clevett, lead community fundraiser Yvonne Curling, musical director Andre Da Silva and supporter Norman Grundon, president of Grundon Waste Management.

Award-winning producer Kate Hall, who has worked on many prime time series for the BBC and Channel 4, pledged to construct a creative writing programme to add to the portfolio, supporting members to 'out write' cancer.

Kate said: "The Princess of Wales attending King Charles' Trooping the Colour proves cancer doesn't care who you are, it is ruthless in its pursuit of people."

She explained that she was working on her dissertation for her master of sciences degree in creative writing for therapeutic services and will complete this next year.

Kate has known Jan for 30 years and described her as 'a visionary beyond belief'. Kate lived with Jan during Covid and said she was able to see first-hand how hard she works.

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