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Former Canterbury schoolgirl Tilly Abbott from Faversham rows for Breast Cancer Care

Tilly Abbott will today begin an epic rowing challenge for a cause very close to her heart.

But the teenager says she has all the motivation she needs to tackle the task,which involves sculling the equivalent of almost 10 crossings of the English channel.

Because the 18-year-old has been inspired to raise money for Breast Cancer Care by the ordeal of her "incredible" mum, Kate, who has just had a devastating diagnosis.

Tilly Abbott, 18, with mum Kate (15215114)
Tilly Abbott, 18, with mum Kate (15215114)

She has recently undergone a mastectomy and is receiving treatment, but is not the first in the family to face the disease.

Because both Tilly's grandmothers also developed breast cancer, with one now facing a terminal prognosis.

So Tilly, 18, from Faversham, has set herself the challenge of rowing 300km in a week on the Westbere Lakes, where she trains with the King's School Rowing Club.

Tilly Abbott, 18, is rowing for Breast Cancer Care (15215133)
Tilly Abbott, 18, is rowing for Breast Cancer Care (15215133)

"My mum is an incredible women who is so selfless and has been a rock, not only to my brother and I, but to countless friends, so I'd love if we could all give back," she said.

"While she currently recovers from her operation I have decided to put myself under a different kind of pain.

"I can't personally take away any pain that she has already gone through or will go through with the treatment to come, but I hope by doing this I can bring something positive to other families in the future.

"Obviously it's a bit of a health worry for me too in the future, so I am getting some medical advice."

Kate, 52, is all too aware of the impact of cancer. She was a nurse at the Kent and Canterbury and then the Pilgrim's Hospice, before taking on a nursing role at the Kings School, where she herself was educated and became a keen rower.

"You just can't say 'why me?', because why not?" she said. "From experience I know that cancer can come calling on anyone at any time.

"But the hardest thing was telling Kate and her older brother, Bruce.

"I was only diagnosed a couple of months ago after finding a lump and was taken in very rapidly for treatment at the QEQM Hospital, which I have to say was marvellous."

Kate, who is married to Steve, a volunteer animal keeper at Howletts, says she is awaiting the results of tests following her surgery, but will need ongoing treatment.

She added: "I'm so proud of Tilly. She has set herself quite a challenge and we will all be supporting her."

Tilly previously attended Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School in Faversham before joining King's in the sixth form and is now at Durham University studying business and management.

Tilly Abbott, 18, is rowing for Breast Cancer Care (15215142)
Tilly Abbott, 18, is rowing for Breast Cancer Care (15215142)

She started her challenge today, rowing about four-and-a-half hours non-stop every morning for the next seven days.

At the end of every session she will have an afternoon break before going to work, waitressing at Whitstable's Oyster Fishery Company in the evening, which has been her summer holiday job.

"I know I will probably be exhausted but it's for such a good cause and I have got off to an amazing start with more than £1,700 already pledged," she said.

To support Tilly's effort, go to https://bit.ly/2krbyR0

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