Melrose woman Karen Baird has founded a new charity focused on giving Borderers diagnosed with cancer access to exercise and alternative therapies.
The 49-year-old has been diagnosed with breast cancer twice and has undergone several treatments over the past six years.
The charity, Hope for Life, is inspired by the boost of confidence that therapies such as exercise classes, meditation and other therapies offered her in the darkest hours of her illness.
She said: “We started the process last September and we have now been through the whole Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator approval process.”
The charity’s first fundraiser is a Zumbathon being held on Saturday, May 28.
The theme is to wear something purple, and tickets cost £10 in advance. They can be bought by emailing Karen on firstname.lastname@example.org or from Martin Baird’s butcher’s shop in Melrose.
“I lost a lot of confidence when I was recovering from my illness, and someone recommended a Zumba class at FitBorders. It was amazing,” said Karen. “It helped me find my confidence and helped get my range of movement back.
“I wanted to give something back, so I decided to raise some cash for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
“FitBorders did a Zumbathon for me, and someone sponsored me £100 to get up on stage and do a dance. I did it, I raised the money and was hooked. I was told I might as well train as an instructor.”
This she did, and she went on to train in several other fitness-related activities.
She said: “I have had four major operations in the last two years, and my Zumba class and fitness classes have really helped me get back on my feet.
“That’s why I am running the Zumbathon as the first event of the charity. It has a real emotional hook for me.
“It was what set me back on my road to full recovery and has really helped me every time I have had an operation.
“It’s fun, people can have a laugh and everybody can exercise to their own ability with no pressure, and we get people from all ages – I have people from 20 to 80 years old in my classes.
“It’s community-based. Anyone can come along, get moving, improve their health and smile at the same time. I think that’s really important.”
Karen said that all money raised for her charity will stay in the Borders.
She said: “That’s what I feel so passionate about. I just want to make sure the money we raise goes directly towards helping the people who need it, which is why I havedecided to take on creating this charity.
“I think people can fall off the radar when their treatment ends and there’s not a lot of help about for people. That’s what I want to help with.
“Even if it is for just a cup of tea and a chat, or a bit of relaxation, right through to them seeing the benefits of exercise or massage, so much of it can help people’s emotional wellbeing as well as physical.
“People can be in an emotionally difficult place after their cancer treatment, and if they have been off their work for several months, they may be in a financially difficult place.
“I’m just really conscious that there is a financial and emotional consequence to cancer that is not always addressed.”