WHILE Elsa Wells was having cancer treatment in America last year her best friends rallied round and took on Oxford's Race for Life, thinking of her every step of the way.

Now, the 22-year-old will reunite with her loved ones to raise funds and awareness of the disease and the important work of Cancer Research UK by taking on the 5K event at University Parks tomorrow.

The Oxford retail manager thought at first she had a chest infection when her breathing became laboured while walking into work last spring.

This was dismissed, doctors thinking it might be asthma, but things took a turn for the worse early one evening soon afterwards.

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She said: “Things came to a head when one day – I had a massive panic attack. I had been eating food in my kitchen and not that long afterwards I felt I couldn’t swallow and that something had caught in my throat.

“I remember being on the phone when the feeling took hold and I was aware that I couldn’t breathe very well.

"I needed to catch my breath quickly and I ran out of the house and into the street barefoot and into the snow."

She continued: “I tried to get air into my lungs and couldn’t believe what was happening to me. Luckily my house mates dialled 999 and when the ambulance arrived they couldn’t see anything obstructed in my airways but still took me to A&E to get me checked out.


Elsa Wells, second from left, with her friends

"It was terrifying for those around me who had to watch me go through this.”

Eventually doctors discovered a 7cm mass on her chest which was slowly crushing her airways.

She was referred to an American clinic for Proton beam therapy, a type of radiotherapy that can reduce side effects for patients by reducing damage to sensitive organs.

For these patients, where proton beam therapy offers a clear advantage over conventional radiotherapy, the NHS pays for treatment abroad in already established centres in the US and Switzerland and has been doing so since 2008.

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Ms Wells who manages the Hotel Chocolat shop in Oxford’s High Street, is looking forward to taking part in the 5K event this year and she is keen to highlight that research right here in Oxford is crucial in helping to beat cancer sooner.

She said: “My motivation with raising as much money for cancer research is a personal one, as I suffered with Non Hodgkin Lymphoma myself, I know how important it is to not only have funding for researching cures but also for the prevention and early detection.

“I want to help ensure anyone affected by cancer can always get the best possible care, before during and post treatment.

"I want everyone to have the opportunity to live a long and fulfilled life.”

This year's Oxford Race for Life sets off from University Parks at 10am tomorrow.

Hundreds of sponsored runners will then race through the city streets, including High Street, raising thousands of pounds for Cancer Research UK.

Sign up via raceforlife.org