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90 years old and still making waves! Meet Peter's family of fundraisers

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
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03 Jan 2019

After Ann Lawrence was diagnosed with leukaemia, her husband Peter and their son Rick were spurred on to fundraise, culminating in Peter's incredible 90th birthday challenge last month. We caught up with Ann about their family of fundraisers.

Peter and Ann Lawrence celebrate Peter's 90th birthday

Ann, tell us more about Peter's challenge...

It all started when our son Rick set him a 90th birthday challenge to swim 90 lengths of a half Olympic pool (25m). Peter keeps active by swimming a few times a week. This was a bit further though, so we decided that any combination of 90 lengths in 7 days would count.

In the end we decided 20 a day would be his limit. He ended up doing 5 days of 20 lengths each – so he got the round 100 in the end, which we were all very proud of.

Did you ever doubt Peter would be able to do it?

I’m probably most nervous about him walking from the changing room to the pool than I am about him finishing! When he sets his mind to something he just does it.

And he did 100 lengths?

I don’t think he planned to do 100 lengths beforehand – he just kept going. Now no one can say “are you sure you counted correctly?”

I hear your son Rick has finished his own fundraising challenges too?

Rick’s done an Ironman triathlon before and the famous ‘clipper round the world’ sailing challenge to raise money for Bloodwise. Peter and I have three sons, and Rick’s the one who gives me the most worry by doing these challenges!

Do you think they get it from their dad?

All three of our sons do their bit, another one’s going snowboarding tomorrow, all of them are in their 50s by the way – we’re not talking youngsters! It’s a way of keeping active and perhaps living as long as their father.

Peter’s inspired them to stay active?

Well, Rick takes Peter to swim on Sundays and Rick also does about 60 lengths. It’s a bit of a father son thing. Peter used to be a sailor. Sailing's in our blood, we raced the Solent and the Channel – Peter even crossed the Atlantic on his 70th birthday, so he’s had some interesting birthday experiences!

In fact, that’s not our only sailing link with Bloodwise. In 205 we were invited to a fundraising event held in London. It was an audience with Ben Ainslie – the four-time Olympic Gold medal winning sailor. We’re sailors, and we got to meet him on stage. It was a great experience.

Ann Lawrence and her son Rick meet Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie (L)

Do you think you’d follow in Peter’s footsteps?

Absolutely not! Between you and me, it’s wet and horrible. Not here anyway, I don’t mind swimming on holiday in a hot country! Just not in December in the local pool. Rick was the one who challenged Peter, so I’m keeping my head down!

Why did Peter choose to raise money for Bloodwise?

Well, back in 2014 I had a lump on my arm. I went for a few tests and was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). It was a big shock – you still feel well, but it really hits you. It was horrible really. But I accept being on watch and wait [learn more about watch and wait]. I was a radiographer myself for many years, so I understand the reasons for this type of treatment.

How has your life changed?

I’m actually very lucky to have been like this for four years. I have some symptoms now, night sweats and cramps – but apart from that I’m ok. I can live a fairly normal life. I keep going, live a healthy life, play golf, walk. I read a lot about the research and hear about what other patients are going through and what to look out for.

You mention research and the progress you've seen?

Yes, I think that the childhood leukaemia statistics are brilliant. I have a friend who’s grandson has acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, and it’s only hearsay, but I know he’s been very poorly. I hear about the treatment he’s had, this treatment has meant he’s hanging in there. So much has been done for him.

I’m going to be 80 in a year’s time, and I’m towards the end of my life. But when you hear about people with young families, it’s devastating. That’s why I’m so glad to hear about the progress we’ve made.

Peter during his 90th birthday challenge

As it’s January, lots of people will be reading Peter’s story and thinking about their own challenges for 2019. Do you have any tips for any would-be fundraisers out there?

We started off trying to raise £500, but with JustGiving we’re nearer £2000. We’ve plugged Peter’s challenge with our friends and groups, and I think it’s in most people’s nature to give generously.

At my golf group I grabbed a Bloodwise tin and passed it around – and got £90 out of that. I don’t find it easy asking for money! But it’s just about raising little bits here and there – it all adds up.

Are you also part of a fantastic fundraising family? Do you have a story to share? We'd love to hear from you!

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