A man has set out on a poignant, year-long walk to raise awareness that cervical cancer could be eradicated.
Laurence Carter is a man on two missions – the first to walk 3,500 miles around the coast of England and Wales within a year; the second – to get men talking about cervical screening and HPV vaccinations.
Laurence, from Seaford, lost his wife, Melitta, to cervical cancer in 2015. She was just 53 years old when she died. He remembers her urging him to go to screening appointments, but he never thought to remind her to do the same.
Laurence said: “When I turned 50, Melitta started reminding me about health checks available for men but at no stage did I remind her to go for a cervical screening. It never crossed my mind. Now I think to myself, if I had raised it and she had gone six months earlier, she might still be alive.”
The father of three plans to walk 3,500 miles around the coast of England and Wales, through 29 counties, within a year. He set off from Seaford, heading west, on Saturday, June 16.
Laurence, a senior director at the World Bank Group, said: “I am walking to raise awareness. Many men might not be familiar with the importance of smear tests, or the vaccine protecting against the main types of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which can cause cervical cancer.”
He aims to raise £200,000 for Cancer Research UK in Melitta’s memory.
He said of his “beautiful, wonderful” wife: “She made everyone feel alive. She touched and enriched the lives of so many people, this is the least I can do for her.”
The money will specifically go to a project led by Dr Jo Waller at the Department of Behavioural Science and Health, University College London.
The project aims to increase informed uptake of HPV vaccination and cervical screening.
Each year, around 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK.
The screening and vaccination both reduce the risk of this type of cancer.
However, in England, more than one in four women do not take part in screenings.
Laurence said: “If I can stop another family going through what we’ve been through, it will all be worth it.”
To follow Laurence’s progress and find out more about the challenge, visit: https://www.3500toendit.com/