Cancer patient to abseil 160 ft down London hospital to ‘pay back’ NHS staff

Cancer patient to abseil 160 ft down London hospital to ‘pay back’ NHS staff
Claire Stork at Guy’s Hospital (Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust/PA)
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust - Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

A cancer patient is to tackle her fear of heights and abseil 160 feet down St Thomas’ Hospital dressed as Where’s Wally to “pay back” the hospital caring for her.

Claire Stork, a prison administrator from Woolwich in south-east London, is to undertake the annual St Thomas’ Hospital abseil with her two friends – Della Pearson and Levi Bowditch – to raise money for Guy’s Cancer Charity, the charity that supports the hospital where she is currently undergoing treatment for her cancer.

Ms Stork and her two friends, dubbed “the party animals”, will join other thrill-seekers abseiling down St Thomas’ Hospital on Friday at 5pm.

Claire Stork at Guy's HospitalClaire Stork at Guy’s Hospital (Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust/PA)

In January 2023, she was diagnosed with a rare and highly aggressive form of thyroid gland cancer, called anaplastic thyroid carcinoma, and is currently undergoing treatment.

In December 2022, she underwent a six-hour operation at Guy’s Hospital, where a 12cm tumour was removed after she noticed a lump in her neck.

The 42-year-old was inspired to take on the feat after she saw a poster for the abseil at Guy’s Hospital.

She told the PA news agency: “I saw the poster with abseiling, and going through my cancer journey everyone keeps saying ‘you’re so brave doing this’.

Claire Stork and friend Levi Bowditch preparing to practice on high ropesClaire Stork and her friend Levi Bowditch preparing to practice on high ropes (Claire Stork/PA)

“I’m not brave, I have no choice but to live with it (cancer) and I can’t change it – so why should I be stressed?

“I’m scared of heights and I thought, I want to do something to make people say you’re brave and mean it.

“Plus, Guy’s Hospital has really helped me out with cancer, from having someone I can always talk to, getting a wig for my head and everyone is so kind.

“I want to pay them back for everything that they do.”

Ms Stork and her friends refer to themselves as the party animals because of their love for “partying and dancing”, and will dress up as Where’s Wally for the challenge as they wanted to do something “unique”.

“We’ve all been there for each other and they’ve been really supportive of me, well all get on so well,” Ms Stork said.

“We are going as Where’s Wally and hopefully are going to have a cape on our back with our names on them, that will also say not every hero wears a cape.”

Her friend, Della Pearson, said: “There’s nothing too big or too small for Claire to overcome.”

Claire Stork and friend Della PearsonClaire Stork and her friend Della Pearson (Claire Stork/PA)

To conquer her fear of heights, Ms Stork has been practising at a high ropes course in Allhallows Haven holiday park in Kent, with her 12-year-old nephew John and 10-year-old niece Ruby.

“It’s about two floors high, not that high, but I’m trying to get the confidence and the feeling of looking down and walking along the ropes,” she explained.

Ms Stork has described the doctors and nurses at Guy’s Hospital as “amazing”.

She said: “They’re always there for me, all the doctors and nurses are just amazing, like you can’t ask for more really.

“They’re always on the go and don’t relax, but no matter how busy they are, they’re always available to talk and help you.

“I want to say a big thank you to Guy’s Cancer, I have had all the support I need.”

CoronavirusClaire will be abseiling 160ft down St Thomas’ on Friday (Ian West/PA)PA Archive/PA Images - Ian West

Ms Stork’s surgeon, Mr Ricard Simo, said: “Since Claire’s diagnosis, she has had a major surgery and very intense treatment. Despite this, she perseveres, and is taking on new challenges, like the abseil.

“All the team treating Claire are delighted with her courage, will and determination to beat this disease.”

Ms Stork has received immense support from family, friends, and her workplace while maintaining a “positive mindset” battling cancer.

“I’m going to live through the cancer and the cancer is not going to live through me,” she said.

“I’m taking every day as it comes, every hospital appointment; it’s been a hard journey and I’ve had my meltdowns but I’m staying positive.”

Claire Stork wearing her football teams' shirtDespite her cancer, Ms Stork continues to play for the Crystal Palace ladies walking football team (Claire Stork/PA)

Alison Rulton-Reed, head of community and events at Guy’s Cancer Charity, added: “We’re delighted to have Claire and her team the ‘party animals’ join us at this year’s exciting event.

“Our work is supported by generous fundraisers who wish to help us fuel innovation and support advances in cancer care.”

To view Ms Stork’s fundraising page, go to:

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