Joining thousands of incredible supporters, last year Joe took part in our walking challenge for England Lioness star Beth Mead and her late mum, June.
The football community and beyond had stepped out to show their support for Beth and to work towards a world where every woman survives ovarian cancer.
Joe knows all too well the difficulties of losing a mum to cancer. Here he tells his story and why he was moved to take part in Walk In Her Name.
“When one of the best and most beloved players in the UK and the world, Beth Mead, was told the difficult news that her mum was terminally ill with cancer, I really felt for her."
Just six months on from the highest of highs for Beth, her Mum June sadly passed away. Beth had just won the Euros for England and been awarded BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2022.
So, when it was announced that Beth had become Captain for Ovarian Cancer Action’s Walk in Her Name team, along with many other Arsenal Women FC supporters, I was moved to take part.
I wanted to show Beth Mead that we cared by walking in her dear mum’s honour.
For those who don’t know, Beth is a special person to get to support each week. She is a player who makes you smile when you are watching her on the pitch, but even more so off it.
She has an infectious, kind, generous and hilarious spirit towards the fans of the team, always giving so much time to people and putting smiles on their faces.
It only felt right to try to return some of that time she gives to everybody and to walk in honour of her dear mum, June, and hopefully even put a smile on her face too.
But my walk was to have a little catch, too - one a little more personal to myself as March is a funny month for me. It’s the month that marks not just my own mum’s birthday, and Mother’s Day, but also sadly her own death due to cancer too - aged just 55.
March also marked eleven years of her no longer being with us. Whilst she didn’t die from ovarian cancer, but bowel cancer, I decided to honour her by walking in her name too.
“Taking part was one of the most rewarding things I've ever personally experienced. I still can't quite believe it happened.”
By taking part in Walk in Her Name 2023, I wanted to raise vital funds and awareness for Ovarian Cancer Action. I planned to walk a nice 100km throughout the month of March, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
Within the first week I was already close to the initial 100km target and had already surpassed the donations target I'd set. So, I started to ponder what was possible if I increased the distance - was 200km possible? 300?? - but wanted to wait and see how the fundraising was going before committing to such a task!
I was feeling emotions I hadn't felt in forever, whilst also having to mentally push through each day. There were high winds, snow, rain and sub-zero temperatures.
But I just kept thinking of Beth’s mum, June, and my mum, Jan.
My mum was a social worker who dedicated her life to helping the most vulnerable people, so I was feeling the closest I'd ever been to who she was as a person. It was as though I was finally living a part of her that I had always wished to.
My mum never really got to see me as the person I became since she passed, who most people would know me as.
“I couldn’t help but see my own mum in June and myself in Beth”
It might seem strange but with how Beth handled the loss of her mum, with all the strength June seemingly instilled in her, the kind of love and messaging she gave, I couldn't help but see my own mum in June and myself in Beth.
It was bringing up things in me I hadn't felt for a long time. Sometimes I would just break down and start crying as I walked, my tears drying on my face pretty instantly in the freezing cold.
I kept thinking of the person who could benefit from the donations and awareness. This month of my life was worth the effort so that others could hopefully see many more of theirs.
Twitter was my way to get the message out. Each day, I posted a message of the progress, the target, the gratitude etc, alongside a map of the walk and photos taken on the way. I would set new distance & donation targets as I went along, and each time I did, the generosity followed.
I decided to bring people in a little more and shared some very personal messages from and about my mum, of text messages she left me in her final days to show the person she was and to help people know a little about my own journey with parental loss to cancer, and why I would feel inspired to Walk In Her Name.
All my fellow walkers - and also Micki in the Netherlands who couldn't walk it but committed to a video edit a day instead - all inspired me with their efforts. The sheer generosity of people donating, sending support and spreading the word the whole way was just immensely energy-giving.
“Every piece of kindness made me want to do more, and to push through on the days you were drained and felt like staying in the warm to rest up.”
By March 18th, I was up to 202km in 30.5 hours of walking in every weather condition except sun! More amazingly, I had surpassed the £1000 mark - something I really wasn't sure was possible at the start.
At this point I started to think more about 300km being doable, but was also curious just how far through the country these distances would take me.
I think I had some faith that the women's football and Arsenal community would come through if I pushed for it - and so we all did.
To my great surprise, using some initiative and asking around, I was kindly given a fully signed England Lionesses jersey by the Arnold Clark Cup - an annual February international cup competition. We raised an amazing £1000 from this alone!
With the final total from the Arsenal Women Supporters Club effort coming in at over £11,000, and the time so many gave to it, it felt really good to know that this was the community we have and to be a part of it - which was really what we hoped to show Beth and her family at the start.
By the end of the challenge, I had walked a tiring, fulfilling and emotional 360km whilst raising an amazing and surprising total of over £4,000!
I certainly didn't expect to raise anywhere close to what I raised - I'd only set a target of £300 for the entire challenge!
I'm not one to feel particularly proud of myself but it was about as proud as I think I've ever been for anything in my life. I was mostly proud of everybody who took part, who supported and who gave. You feel good individually for your own efforts and doing something for a community.
It might feel small in the grand scheme of things but all our collective small efforts make big changes in the world.”
Walk in Her Name is so much more than a challenge. It’s a community coming together, uniting for a world where every woman will survive ovarian cancer.
Be a part of a movement that pushes our mission forward. Walk to remember. Walk to support. Walk to change the lives of women with ovarian cancer. Walk to fund our next big breakthrough.