Family and friends of a courageous Southport Mum are determined to raise £50,000 ahead of her 49th birthday – as they complete a skydive from 15,000ft.
Nine people will be taking on the challenge over Lancaster in Lancashire on 8th October 2022, the day before Catherine Gokcen’s big day.
Three years ago Catherine was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, which came as a huge shock to all those close to her.
Initially contracting breast cancer, it then spread to other areas of her body. In June last year Catherine underwent an emergency operation at the Walton Centre in Liverpool where she narrowly avoided paralysis thanks to the skill and determination of the surgeons.
The fundraisers are now determined to raise as much money as they can for the LARKS Marina Dalglish Appeal, a charity organisation for women living with breast cancer, and have set up a page called ‘Our Skydive for Catherine and the Larks’ on the JustGiving website.
Services provided there include counselling, reiki, reflexology and treatments that are used to help and ease the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Additionally, hair and nail treatments are offered, along with an opportunity to share experiences with women in similar situations.
The skydiving daredevils including Catherine’s husband, Neil, aged 47; their children Eve (22) and Tom (20); plus Lisa Forth; Sarah, Will and Matt Barwell; Ryyan Winter; and Stephen Dunne, who is Neil’s business partner as they co-own Birkdale Kitchen Co. in Birkdale in Southport.
Neil Gokcen said: “We’re excited – and also petrified! – to launch our skydive for the LARKS Marina Dalglish Appeal, because every penny counts for this great cancer charity.
“We’re a group of nine 18 to 56-year-olds asking for everyone’s support to raise money for a very special lady and an amazing cancer charity that’s close to her heart; Liverpool-based LARKS, which is part of the Marina Dalglish Appeal.
“We’re looking to complete our skydive on the weekend of Catherine’s birthday, 8th October 2022, we’re planning our first ever skydive and will be jumping 15,000 feet out of an aeroplane over Lancaster to raise our target of £50,000. This sum is really significant to continue funding the LARKS’ invaluable contribution to the women who live with cancer.
“We need your help to achieve this goal, please support us!
“I’ve never done a skydive before. The people I’ve spoken to say that it’s the best thing they’ve ever done.
“I can’t wait to do it! Although I am sure I will be bricking it when I go up in the ‘plane.
“The cause is such that I can’t wait to do the skydive because it is so personal to us as a family and what we are raising money for is so important.”
Catherine Gokcen was diagnosed with triple-negative primary breast cancer in the autumn of 2019.
Neil said: “You can imagine the shock this was to our family, friends and everyone who has the pleasure of knowing her.
“Catherine is a strong woman and underwent a single mastectomy and lymph node clearance and received chemotherapy to deal with cancer over the next few months.
“In April 2020, she completed her treatment, was given the all-clear and proudly rang the bell at the Marina Dalglish Centre at Aintree Hospital, a day we’ll never ever forget!
“Just over a year later, in June 2021, our world turned upside down all over again. Our gorgeous Catherine was diagnosed with secondary stage four metastatic cancer.
“Her cancer had spread from her breast and was mostly in her spine, liver, hip, and chest area.
“We simply couldn’t believe it.
“On 13th June last year, she underwent an emergency operation to remove the tumours that were putting pressure on her spine.
“And thanks to the amazing team at the Walton Centre in Liverpool, she narrowly avoided paralysis.
“Almost a year on, Catherine has been treated with three different chemotherapies and radiotherapy in some areas. We’ve accepted that her cancer is incurable, but our constant hope is to slow, stop the growth or even shrink the tumours.
“Catherine’s primary cancer is triple-negative, a rare form of the disease, making the range of treatment options much narrower. It’s always a worry when she begins a new treatment, as what may work for one person doesn’t always work for another.
“In April 2022, Catherine started receiving Trodelvy, a life-extending new drug for women with incurable triple-negative secondary breast cancer. She is currently reacting well to the treatment, and we’re waiting to see what the first scan of the tumours will show.
“This past year definitely hasn’t been easy, but Catherine has shown us true strength and is an absolute inspiration to us, day in and day out. She shows up and faces each day as it comes!”
The nine skydivers want people to help them to raise £50,000 for their chosen charity because Catherine has been a part of LARKS, a subgroup of the fantastic Marina Dalglish Centre based in Liverpool, since 2019.
The Marina Dalglish Appeal was set up by the Dalglish family in 2005 after Marina, who lives in Southport with husband Sir Kenny Dalglish, was successfully treated for breast cancer in 2003. The charity has one aim “to make a difference” to cancer patients and their families across Merseyside.
In 2016 the breast cancer support centre LARKS was opened in the heart of Liverpool. Marina Dalglish hoped it would benefit ladies who were able to visit by offering holistic and beauty therapy, counselling, and friendship; however, the bond between the “Larkettes” and the caring atmosphere they have created has surpassed her wildest expectations.
Over the last six years, Catherine and over 200 ladies have walked through their doors or, during the pandemic, joined their ‘LARKS at Home’ groups, all offering invaluable support and care. LARKS has a special place in Catherine’s heart and has been a massive part of her experience with cancer. She describes the people there as “some of the best you’ll ever meet”.
As well as the skydive, the fundraisers are seeking to raise as much as they can through other means as well, and are appealing for help from local people and local businesses.
Neil said: “If anyone would like to donate any items, memorabilia, etc… that we can use to raise funds, or would like to stage an event to help us, then please let me know.
“Perhaps one of the local golf clubs could donate a four ball, other people or businesses might have good ideas too.
“We aim to raise at least £50,000 and ensure a welcoming and supportive environment for all affected women, in years to come.
“As a group, we feel this is the least we can do.
“We’re asking our families, friends, work colleagues, clients, university colleagues, customers, neighbours and anyone else who knows us or has been touched by Catherine’s story to support us.
“Some of us are more petrified than others to do this – particularly Eve, Sarah and Matt!
“Some of us have to lose a couple of stone in weight to do this, no names mentioned!
“All nine of us are self-funding our jumps, so every penny raised directly supports Catherine’s chosen charity.
“This is for you, Catherine! Our lovely wife, mum, sister, cousin, auntie and friend.”
- To support the appeal, please visit the page ‘Our Skydive for Catherine and the Larks’ on the JustGiving website.