Berkshire breast cancer survivor raises thousands for charity with help from her 'Calendar Girls'

  • Meet Karen De Monte who has raised thousands of pounds to help people being treated for cancer.

Three years ago Karen De Monte persuaded dozens of women affected by cancer to join her and strip off for a charity calendar to raise funds for Newbury Cancer Care.

Since then she's donated nearly £27,000 to the charity - and she's now a finalist in our Pride of Britain Fundraiser of the Year awards for 2023.

This year she's produced a second calendar - which this time includes the men. She also runs a support group called Hope, Strength and Courage and regularly gets together with her fellow Calendar Girls to send out "Goody bags" to patients going through chemotherapy which are full of practical products and helpful treats.

"I had my all clear in December 2021 which is amazing," said Karen. "But so many people haven't. I've always got those people in the back of my mind. That's who I do it for. "

As well as raising money Karen shared her diary of her journey through breast cancer treatment to give hope to others.

A lot of the money that Karen raises for the charity goes towards running The Rainbow Rooms at West Berkshire Community Hospital - which offer families purpose built spaces to spend time together during a terminally ill patient's last weeks of life.

'My father was a patient in the Rainbow Rooms and he spent his last week of life there," said Karen. "I decided then that I wanted to find a way to give back to them. That want became more of a need after I had my own cancer diagnosis in April 2021."

Since working on the first project together, the Calendar Girls have become lifelong friends, offering each other invaluable support. Karen says the project gave her a focus when she needed it most.

Dawn Mackney says Karen is the leader. "She is a total inspiration to us all. It just seems she's 24/7. "

One of the other things Karen has started this year is running a coffee morning support group in conjunction with Newbury Cancer Care. The group gather at The Waterside centre in Newbury once a week.

Helen Milroy from Newbury Cancer Care said: "Not only is she raising money, she's raising awareness and the name of the charity.

"She takes on so much and I do worry sometimes she takes on too much.

"I take my hat off to her and I think she's an absolute star. "

Karen De Monte now runs a coffee morning and support group with Newbury Cancer Care Credit: ITV Meridian

Karen's fundraising journey has far surpassed what she thought was possible.

"My original goal was to raise ten thousand pounds over two years," said said.

"I knew it was going to take a lot of work - particularly because I was going through treatment.

Karen retains fond memories of the Calendar Girls project that started her fundraising journey.

"It was amazing. I think we surprised a lot of people - we were very out of our depth, we'd never done anything like it before - from doing it people have gained so much more confidence. It's made them feel great about themselves."

The Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards celebrates the unsung heroes who go above and beyond to make their communities and the country a better place.

Nominated by the public, the winners come from all walks of life, of all ages, and from all over the country.

They will come together with stars from television for a glittering ceremony in London, broadcast on ITV.

Among them will be two winners from the Meridian region, picked from a shortlist of inspiring nominees.

Each day this week – on our 6pm programme and online – we'll showcase those who are in the running. The winner will be revealed on Friday's programme.

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