A BURY actress – whose mum successfully beat bowel cancer – is preparing to take on Manchester’s Race for Life Heaton Park and is calling on women in Greater Manchester to join her.

Jazmine Franks, who played Esther Bloom in Hollyoaks, knows all too well the importance of research after supporting her mum Lesley through her fight against bowel cancer seven years ago.

Lesley is now cancer-free and has teamed up with Jazmine to take part in this year’s Race for Life 5k at Heaton Park on Sunday 15 July to help support vital cancer research.

The pair are keen to highlight the crucial connection between taking part in Race for Life and helping save lives by funding work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

Lesley, 61, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in Autumn 2011 – but had known there was something wrong for about 18 months.

Jazz, 26, who grew up in Bury attended Elton High School followed by Holy Cross College, said: “I felt shocked, scared maybe even a little angry when I found out Mum had cancer. We all go through life thinking it will never happen to us so to hear the person you’re closest to tell you they have cancer was like a punch in the face.

“I was in bed and my mum always used to come up to say night. She’d sit on the end of my bed and ask me about my day or tell me something that’s happened to her at work. She just came out with it like it was normal, I think I stopped listening once I heard the word cancer!”

Lesley was sent to The Christie at Oldham for an intense course of radiotherapy to shrink her tumour down to a size where it was operable. Within a couple of weeks, she had had the tumour removed by keyhole surgery and a colostomy bag fitted. Lesley then had the colostomy bag reversed a year after her surgery. She is now 6 years clear.

Jazz said: “Mum was lucky and didn’t have to have chemotherapy.

“It was a strange time as she just carried on with everyday life whilst having radiotherapy until she had the operation to have the cancer removed and a colostomy bag fitted.

“She doesn’t like fuss and because she was so strong we had to follow suit. She did ask me to sneak cherry ice lollies into the hospital for her though so of course I had to oblige!

“I think seeing mum have cancer has changed my outlook on life. We never know what is around the corner so we need to do everything we want whenever we can. Mum and dad sold up the family business and took early retirement and are now ticking off the bucket list. It’s fab to see.”

Lesley said: “I had huge support from Jazz and the rest of my family and friends to help me cope with my treatment.

“I coped pretty well. Everything ran so smoothly with the cancer removal so I was back in work within a couple of weeks. I believe you can’t dwell on things, you just have to keep on moving.

“Jazz was great. She ran everyone around to see me whilst I was in hospital.

“She made sure everything was in order whilst my husband Gary sorted the shop out. I think she might have even covered some shifts when we were short staffed. It’s the little things you notice most, like having brews made for you and just having someone there to chat to.”

Now Jazz and Lesley are in training for Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life Heaton Park and want more ladies from across Bury and Greater Manchester to join them. And Jazz has been giving away a series of Race places on her Instgram account ahead of the event at Heaton Park on Sunday 15 July.

Jazz, who has been able to spend more time training since recently finished filming for Hollyoaks, said: “It’s something me and my mum can do together. It gives us something to focus on, I’ve got her in the gym with me now. She’s getting so much out of it just by doing that extra bit of exercise and when it’s all for such a fab cause everyone’s a winner!

“We are looking forward to seeing a sea of pink ladies at Heaton Park! It’s always a fun day but quite emotional too. Seeing everyone’s signs with who they’re running, jogging or walking for is heart-warming and heart breaking all at the same time. It’s nice to see everyone united in the fight against cancer.

“We want to thank everyone who donates, to everyone who takes part, to everyone who supports the fundraising in any way. You’re changing and saving lives! And that to me is priceless.

“Mum’s experience means I understand all too clearly why Cancer Research UK’s work is so important. It’s thanks to all the mums, grans, daughters and friends who take part in Race for Life and help fund vital research that Cancer Research UK’s scientists and doctors can continue to make strides forward in their efforts to beat the disease.

“That’s why I’m calling on women in Greater Manchester and across the UK to join the fight and sign up today.”

Lesley added: “The number of cancer survivors is on the rise and we want those numbers to keep on rising!

“Events like Race for Life help fund cancer research and increase awareness of cancer! Whilst we are out running in our pink t-shirts let’s remember we are helping to save lives.”

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is an inspiring women-only series of 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy, Half Marathon and Hiking events which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer sooner by funding crucial research.

Money raised through Race for Life helps Cancer Research UK to fund long-term research and pioneering trials, leading to new tests and kinder treatments which could save the lives of people across the North West and beyond.

Cancer Research UK research and clinical trials have helped doctors use the drug tamoxifen to its full potential, revolutionising treatment and prevention of breast cancer and boosting survival. And the charity’s early research work helped develop cisplatin, which is now used to treat testicular and other types of cancer.

Alison Barbuti, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Greater Manchester, said: “We’d like to thank Jazz and Lesley and every woman who laces up her trainers and takes her place at the start line at Race for Life because their participation and contribution is so important.

“One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives and we couldn’t continue our life-saving work without the support of the public. Money raised through Race for Life is helping to drive research to help beat over 200 different types of cancer - that’s why every person who crosses the finish line can make a real difference.”

Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, Cancer Research UK was able to spend over £26 million last year in Manchester on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.

To enter Race for Life today visit www.raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770.