Terminally ill mum-of-three being joined by pals from well-known cafe in Race for Life

The Jean's Kitchen team from left Louise Matthews Nicola Philpott Donna Duffield Rachel Andrews Jean
-Credit: (Image: PR)

A terminally ill mum-of-three, who has just become a grandmother, is set to take part in Friday's Race for Life in Stewart Park, Middlesbrough, alongside her sister, sister-in-law and friends from one of the town's most popular cafes.

Donna Duffield, 43, a nurse at James Cook University Hospital where she is currently receiving treatment, was diagnosed with skin cancer before the pandemic. Although it initially disappeared, the disease returned and spread to other parts of her body.

Despite her condition, Donna is determined to complete the 5K course, supported by her family and a team of five from Jean's Kitchen in the Dundas Indoor Market. The team includes 69 year old owner Jean Hall, manager Louise Matthews, colleague Kay Watson, Donna's sister-in-law Nicola Philpott and sister Rachel Andrews, who lives three doors away from her in Eston.

Rachel, a 35 year old mum-of-two who has worked at the cafe since 2008, said: "She's a fighter. She wants to raise money and do the race to prove that she can. We'll take her wheelchair just in case but she said she's not getting in it."

The team from Jean's Kitchen hopes to raise enough funds to donate to race organiser Cancer Research as well as the Chemotherapy Day Unit at James Cook where Donna has received her treatment.

Cafe manager Louise, a veteran of two London Marathons and six Great North Runs, said: "As soon as they heard Donna was doing it, they all wanted to take part even Jean, who doesn't run."

The 45 year old Guisborough native has been a part of Jean's Kitchen since she was just 16, and the seven-strong team boasts a combined service of nearly 150 years. They all have a close relationship with Donna, who has been a consistent supporter of their charitable endeavours over the years.

"It's so nice to give something back to her because she has been involved in a lot of my fundraising," Louise expressed. "We just want to be there with her."

Indoor market manager David Harris said: "This is typical of Jean, Louise and the whole of the cafe team. They do so much to help their local community, whether it's somebody close to them like Donna or their loyal customers."

Among their community efforts are monthly coffee mornings for Middlesbrough's Deaf Empowering Unit (DEF) and the newly-launched Knit & Natter group every Monday morning.

The staff at Jean's Kitchen also make an effort to celebrate regular customers' birthdays, support them at funerals and during the COVID lockdown - when the cafe was closed - they cooked meals in their own kitchens and delivered them to their homes. Louise even did one customer's washing because his local laundrette was shut.

Donations for the Race for Life can be made at the cafe or through Just Giving here.

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