From Acton To The Sahara Desert

Raising funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust


Rachel desert trek

Rachel Cunningham to trek the Sahara desert

Teenage Cancer Trust


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An Acton woman is taking part in an epic trek across the Sahara Desert for a charity devoted to helping young people across the UK with cancer.

Rachel Cunningham from Acton, West Londonwill set off on her challenge on 31 October and will trek for 8 days, covering 78km across the dried-out riverbeds and sand dunes of the Sahara desert. All funds raised will be donated to Teenage Cancer Trust.

21-year-old Rachel decided to take on this challenge after recently facing cancer and seeing first-hand the work  the charity does for teenagers. Rachel was in her first year of university when her life was very suddenly turned upside down and she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Rachel commented: “When I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, my mind instantly shut down and I was in shock. I didn’t know what to expect, and I feared the worst. After hearing the terrible news, I had to leave university and move back home for treatment, and due to the aggressive nature of my cancer, this meant my new home for 4 months of treatment was University College Hospital.

“I had to live in the hospital, which in itself was so overwhelming; however, I was treated on a Teenage Cancer Trust unit. This meant whilst living in the hospital ward, I was surrounded by other teenagers going through a similar experience, enabling me to feel less isolated and vulnerable. The ward was filled with amazing staff who always kept me informed and helped me understand my treatment better, and the ward accommodated for one of my parents to be able to stay with me each night in hospital.”

Now in remission, Rachel has since finished her degree at the University of Bristol and is hoping to raise money by completing this trek. She was inspired to do this challenge as a way to give back to a charity that has helped her, and to allow other teenagers with cancer to get the same support she was able to have.

Rachel added: “I also wanted to do this in memory of a few of the friends I met in hospital, who I became extremely close to, but who unfortunately passed away when we were on the cancer ward together. I hope that by fundraising for the charity, we can raise more awareness of the early symptoms of cancer, and support more teenagers who are fighting the battle against cancer.”

As part of her training, Rachel entered a 10K run at the beginning of September, as a way to keep her fitness levels up whilst training for this trek. She has also been making sure she is active in her daily routines, by cycling to work and walking when possible.

Teenage Cancer Trust is the only UK charity dedicated to improving the quality of life and chances of survival for the seven young people aged 13 to 24 diagnosed with cancer every day. The charity funds and builds specialist units in NHS hospitals and provides dedicated staff, bringing young people together so they can be treated by teenage cancer experts in the best place for them.

Traditionally treated alongside children or elderly patients at the end of their lives, young people can feel extremely isolated, some never meeting another young person with cancer. Being treated alongside others their own age can make a huge difference to their whole experience. Teenage Cancer Trust wants every young person with cancer to have access to this specialist support, no matter where they live.

Teenage Cancer Trust also educates young people and health professionals about cancer to help improve the speed and quality of diagnosis. Cancer in young people is rare but Teenage Cancer Trust wants young people to know the common signs so they can seek medical advice if they are worried.

To make a donation to Rachel’s challenge please visit

To help transform the lives of young people with cancer visit


14th October 2015