BOWEL cancer survivor Karen Raeburn raised nearly £2,000 for charity, got engaged and has been invited to take part in a television programme – all in the space of a week.
The sales negotiator with Galashiels estate agent CKD Galbraith and her fiance, dance teacher Peter “Chalky” Whyte, raised more than £1,750 for Bowel Cancer UK at a dinner dance they organised on March 17 at the Macdonald Cardrona Hotel.
And it was there, in front of the 100 or so fundraisers, that Chalky went down on one knee on the dance floor and asked his partner of three-and-a-half years to marry him.
“I did the ‘Oh my god, what are you doing, oh my god, what are you doing?’ Then I just put my hand out to get the ring, I forgot to say yes. He said, ‘She hasn’t even said the word’. Everyone laughed and we got a huge cheer.
“I’m excited. I think my first reaction after the dance was ‘Do people my age get married?’ You never really think it’s going to happen again – I’m a very happy woman.”
She later found out her fiance had been organising his proposal since Christmas.
“The ring has been in a drawer in the bedroom since January apparently – I never knew! And he panicked when, while organising the dance, I said, ‘Thank goodness it’s not a wedding’. I’m just going to let him organise the wedding and I’ll go and buy the dress.”
Ten years ago Karen’s life was very different as the mum-of-two came to terms with having bowel cancer. She nearly cancelled the hospital appointment that led to her diagnosis, after the symptoms of passing blood and mucous had disappeared. But a work colleague persuaded her and she underwent surgery followed by six months of chemotherapy.
And her story, told in TheSouthern earlier this year, prompted the producer of the Channel 4 television programme, Embarrassing Bodies: Live From the Clinic, to ask Karen if she would like to be involved in the show.
“I was quite shocked when he got in touch. He liked that I said about bowel cancer involving a bodily function which even the Queen performs. They are only putting the show together at the moment, so I don’t know if I will be part of it.”
She urges anyone with bowel symptoms to get them checked.
“It is embarrassing and I did have the embarrassment factor about it all at the beginning [when she was first ill], but now I’m happy to do anything to help. That’s my reason [for saying yes to the show]. I’m a bit more confident about speaking about it now. When you realise people can die of something you have survived that gives you more incentive to get out there and say ‘Get checked as quickly as you can’.
“I nearly didn’t go to my hospital appointment and it was a work colleague who said, ‘Just go, it’s peace of mind’. If that’s how everybody else is and they don’t go, they could leave it until it is too late – that’s what we have got to get through to people.”
She was pleased with the £1,754 raised at the charity dance.
“I was dead chuffed with that. It was a brilliant night, we are still getting comments coming back now and everybody had a fantastic time.”
Meanwhile, her fiance has surpassed himself, presenting her with tickets to singer-songwriter Lionel Richie for her 47th birthday last Saturday. “Chalky said, ‘I can’t believe I’m giving you tickets to see another man’. I’ve never seen Lionel Richie live – I go weak at the knees when I hear his music,” said Karen.