Published: 16:42, 09 June 2019
| Updated: 18:03, 09 June 2019
A man who lost his wife to cervical cancer is marching on through a year-long 3,500km trek around the coastline of England and Wales to raise awareness of the disease.
Laurence Carter arrived in Kent at the beginning of June as part of his amazing journey.
Starting near Brighton in June last year, the 58-year-old walked west to Cornwall before turning north, skipping Scotland, and working his way down the east coast.
At the start of this month he arrived in Kent for the final leg of his trip – first passing through the Medway towns – and is now on the Isle of Sheppey.
The father-of-three has raised an impressive £65,000 for Cancer Research UK, money earmarked for finding new ways of reminding women to have smear tests.
Laurence's wife Melitta died from cervical cancer in 2015 at the age of 53.
She had been several months late for a routine smear test when she went to the doctor in 2012.
"My wife was about four months late for her screening," he said. "But that was the difference between life and death.
"'A bit of bad news,’ she said quietly when I came home that evening. ‘They’ve found signs of cervical cancer and I need an emergency hysterectomy, then chemotherapy and radiation’."
Despite hopes the cancer might be contained, further tests revealed it had spread.
"Over the next few months, Melitta responded well to the treatment to prolong her life, and was able to stay active," Laurence continued. "In that time, the family spent as much time together as we could.
"She was putting on a brave face – and so was I, but inside, it felt as if my heart was physically breaking.
"By April 2015, Melitta’s health started to decline and she died surrounded by family that September. I was completely lost without her.
"I kept thinking if only I’d reminded her to go for her smear test."
To try and make sure no-one has to go through what he and his family did, Laurence decided to take a year off work as a senior director at the World Bank to take on the mammoth trek.
"I decided I wanted to raise awareness for cervical cancer in her memory and then an idea struck me – a walk around the UK. Melitta and I had loved walking, so I knew she’d approve.
"The tragedy is it doesn’t have to be this way, cervical cancer is the first cancer which can be eliminated, through HPV vaccination and good screening. Progress has been dramatic in the past few years. The main barrier is awareness.
"I still miss my wife every single day, but knowing I'm making a difference gives me comfort and the strength to keep walking. And walking by the sea each day has helped me overcome my grief and realise that my wife would want me to enjoy this amazing experience."
Now he wants more serious action to be taken to eliminate cervical cancer altogether, something which he says is achievable in the next two decades.
"I'm really walking to raise awareness," he said. "What I would love is for somebody, possibly one of these candidates for Prime Minister, to say 'we are going to stop cervical cancer by 2035'. It's something we can do through screening and the HPV vaccine so it's the first cancer that we could eradicate."
To help Laurence raise money visit his website at 3500toendit.com