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Christiansen runs London Marathon in memory of aunt

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Izzy Christiansen played for Birmingham City, Manchester City, Lyon and Everton during her 15-year career

Former England midfielder Izzy Christiansen wants to raise awareness of bowel cancer when she runs Sunday’s London Marathon in memory of her aunt.

Christiansen was driven to run after her aunt, Lucy, died from the illness.

“A lot of people aren’t really familiar with how prominent bowel cancer is and how many lives it takes,” she said.

She is running in aid of the Bobby Moore Fund, set up after the 1966 World Cup-winning England captain’s death from the disease.

The charity was formed shortly after Moore died in 1993 and has raised more than £30m for research into bowel cancer.

“I lost my auntie to bowel cancer 18 months ago,” Christiansen told BBC Sport. “I was really, really close to her and it was a really tough time.

“I was so determined when I finished playing football to do some fundraising.”

Christiansen is also taking part in the Football Shirt Friday initiative to raise awareness of the disease, alongside other footballers including England men’s captain Harry Kane and Lionesses forward Lauren Hemp.

She wants people to become more knowledgeable of the symptoms of bowel cancer so that they can seek treatment for it earlier.

“The symptoms were blood in poo and unexpected weight loss,” Christiansen said.

“So they were things which became prominent and fundamentally, in our case, it was a diagnosis… which was later than should have occurred because of her ignorance to the symptoms, I suppose is the right way of putting it.

“I guess we are motivated by making people aware of the symptoms so that if you do see any early signs, then you can report it and flag it with your GP and specialists so that you can stop the spreading.”

‘Grief isn’t a competition’

Mental Health Awareness Week takes place next month, from 13-19 May, and Christiansen was keen to stress the importance of sharing feelings to deal with grief.

She said that “people should be respected for the way that they feel”.

“I was with my niece the other day and we were looking at pictures and a picture of my auntie was there,” said Christiansen.

“I was asking her to name everyone in the photo but then I didn’t want to ask her who that picture was – I didn’t want to get upset in front of her because I wanted to look strong. But then I just burst into tears.

“It was a moment when I thought I’m over everything and I’m moving forward and then it just hit me because you try to be strong in that moment to a two-year-old.”

The 32-year-old former Manchester City, Lyon and Everton player believes it is important for people to be able to speak openly about grief.

“Grief isn’t a competition,” Christiansen said. “Grief is a real thing that people go through and grief won’t ever stop.

“People say time is a healer but I think over time grief changes and it will never go away when you’ve lost somebody very close to you. It’s how you deal with that and it’s the importance of speaking and sharing your feelings.”

Beattie’s story ‘really hit home’

Former Scotland defender Jen Beattie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020 while playing for Arsenal and encouraged other women to get checked when she spoke about it.

Beattie now plays for Bay FC in the United States’ National Women’s Soccer League and Christiansen said seeing the impact of her story “really hit home” and showed the importance of raising awareness.

“We do a podcast together and there have been a couple of times where she’s been super brave and spoken out about her experiences,” Christiansen said. “It really makes you think and I guess that’s somebody who’s quite close-connected in the football circle.

“I know what an impact she had, and how much more awareness she raised with her symptoms and her story. That’s just on a small scale, but we’re talking about a nationwide and global scale of just helping each other.”

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