I trekked 100km of the Pembrokeshire coast this June to raise awareness of breast cancer and get us all to check our chests! I joined over 100 trekkers who also took on the CoppaTrek challenge last month and absolutely smashed it. An inspiring and life-changing week full of laughs, tears, perseverance, and determination.
What is CoppaTrek with Gi?
CoppaTrek with Gi is organised by CoppaFeel every year. CoppaFeel help everyone stand the best possible chance of surviving breast cancer by educating on the importance of getting to know your boobs and pecs.
With a record-breaking number of applications (1,015 in total), just 200 of us were selected to take part in the CoppaTrek challenges this year.
For the first time ever, this year the charity will be trekking twice, with the next team of trekkers heading out to the Sahara Desert in November. The Pembrokeshire coastal trek took place last month where we completed 100km in 5 days.
Giovanna Fletcher is a patron of the charity and a familiar face on the challenge. She walks alongside a different group of celebrities every year who lead their teams of trekkers. This year we were lucky enough to have a great group of celebs including Sophie Piper, Kiri Pritchard-Maclean, Amy Dowden, Megan Jayne Crabbe, and of course Gi!
When I found out I had been selected and the email popped into my inbox I was so shocked. I screenshot it straight away and sent it to my Mum who couldn’t believe it. To be one of the trekkers chosen for the Pembrokeshire challenge, particularly after so many people had applied, made me so happy and I knew it would be a very memorable week.
Close to our hearts
When putting one foot out in front of the other and looking at the long line of trekkers in front of us, we remember that we are all here for our own reasons. When we weren’t running off for a wild wee, to be the first in the queue for the only public loo on route, or to pick up the last pack of Compeed from the local pharmacy, we all got to know each other a little better. Every day we trekked alongside teammates and shared personal and inspirational stories that brought us closer together. With every step we took together, it made the impact of our challenge greater.
After meeting Natalie for the first time, she came over to introduce herself and gave me a huge hug embracing me into Team Sophie. Natalie Page applied for CoppaTrek in memory of her childhood friend Lora. Their parents were best friends, with Lora’s family having three daughters and Natalie’s having two. The girls’ childhood was a glorious haze of fancy dress birthday parties, trips to the park (near to their parents favourite pub), and long, hot summers in the south of France pretending to be the Famous Five learning how to order ice cream and baguettes in French.
Lora was feisty and fearless with the most contagious laugh you would’ve ever heard. As the girls grew, life, as it always does, took over and meet ups were confined to weddings and other major events interspersed with quick chats via social media. But then everything changed when Lora was diagnosed with breast cancer.
In November 2021, Lora passed away and a permanent hole now exists within their Famous Five. Lora was a fighter until the very end and after her cancer spread to her brain and skin, she fundraised for the charity Make Seconds Count.
After her passing, Natalie tuned in and kept seeing Gi talking about CoppaTrek.
“It felt like Lora telling me to do something out of my comfort zone, so a week before the deadline I applied and about 10 days after the closing date I got the email. I was in! I cried.”
Natalie Fairbank, CoppaFeel trekker
Taking on the challenge for CoppaFeel
Arriving on camp felt surreal for me, after months of fundraising, visiting every outdoor shop possible, trying on the “right” walking boots, and making sure I had all the gear, I had arrived at Porthclais Farm. With Team Sophie already sat in a circle on their camp chairs getting to know each other, I felt an overwhelming wave of nervousness as I walked into my tent and dumped my bags. I stayed there for about 5 minutes before Cay, my tent buddy, came over to introduce herself and told me to pull up a chair.
We all headed into the marquee of motivation, I like to call it, where we met Gi for the first time and had our briefings for the days ahead. With our camping plates full, we sat down and all shared the same thing in common, a genuine fear of whatever the next few days was going to bring, before stocking up on the fruit pastels and getting our bags prepped for the start of the challenge.
With one trekker having their arm in a sling plus stitches to the knee on day one and committing to continuing the challenge, there was nothing that could stop the rest of us after seeing Gemma’s determination.
Water bladder? Check. Lunch and snacks? Check. Suncream? Check. Plasters and Compeed? Check. Pre-trek warm up from Danika? Check. We were set to go.
On route we shared laughs, whether that was ranting about our spinning instructor back home, whacking each other accidentally with a walking pole, doing impressions of our 3 minute warning, or just pure Becky Cheetham entertainment, we helped each other out by making time go a little quicker on our long days out.
As each day went passed and we knocked down the kilometres, the feet were getting sore and the legs started to stiffen up more and more. Luckily we had some volunteers who led stretching sessions and some yoga in the evenings. This worked a treat.
Another factor to making the trek a little easier, if we can say that, was the beautiful scenery as we walked along the coast. Some of the routes included St David’s Head Loop, Trefin Loop, and the Strumble Head Loop. The sun was shining most days and the blue skies complemented the coastline. Along the way, there were seal and puffin spots, as well as wild horses and cows. There was definitely enough to keep us distracted from the walking most of the time.
The last 10km back to camp on the final day felt never-ending. After a pit-stop for lunch, we were shocked by the ascent and descent that made the view of the campsite seem a million miles away. After we turned the corner and began walking up to the finish line hand in hand with our team mates, I felt an overwhelming sense of achievement and looked beside me to a group of people who felt exactly the same. Smiling as we crossed the line with not many dry eyes around, we had done it! We had trekked the Pembrokeshire coast.
On our final evening, each team was tasked to create an awareness song with the message of CoppaFeel which made us all get quite competitive. Some teams went all out with costumes (from whatever we had available) like Team Sophie, who channeled their inner Britney with glowstick mics as they sang “Check Your Boobies One More Time”!
There was a particularly special stand-out moment that evening that will stay with us all forever. It highlighted the importance of awareness across all communities. Team Megan made a moving tribute to a member of their team who took part in the challenge as the only deaf person to trek the 100km. With a strong message and desire to help to educate the deaf community on how to check for breast cancer, Team Megan revised the lyrics to the Spice Girls’ “Stop” and signed to the chorus. A truly powerful moment.
Packing everything up on the last night and reloading the car ready to head home felt a little bizarre. After spending the last week together, eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, chatting until it was too cold to stay outside, and comparing blisters. It felt like the end. We all felt a little lost.
With tight calves, swollen feet, and blisters, I emptied my tent and realised that it wasn’t just the end. I had completed a challenge I had set for myself. I had travelled there with two people I didn’t know in a car for 4 hours. I had pushed myself to go away by myself. I had been a part of a huge team of trekkers who have helped to make an impact by raising awareness of the charity and checking your chest. I was part of Team Boobs.
The challenge is a special week that we share together and will forever be one of the stories we bang on about as we get older.
“It was the physical mountain I needed to climb for the metaphorical mountain I’ve been climbing for years.”
Emma, Former Pink Clouding owner and CoppaTrekker
The Pembrokeshire CoppaTrek has raised over £393,500 and is close to reaching the £400,000 target set by the charity. The celebs and trekkers have been fundraising for months and have raised an incredible amount to help to fund the work of CoppaFeel. This will help in continuing to educate regular checks from a young age, to learn the signs and symptoms, and to seek medical advice if symptoms persist.
Life after the trek
When you get along with a group of people so well and get to know each other in such a short space of time, the hope to stay friends is always there but by a week, or two, later you usually know whether the communication is going to flop.
With blistered feet pics, voice note updates, and heart-warming messages flooding through the group chat, I think we knew immediately that this was a whole new friendship group that was here to stay. But where was Sophie?! Just kidding she joined in and gave us her life update once she got her phone back.
Not only have we walked away from the challenge with great new relationships, but we have also shocked ourselves at how much the trek has had an impact on us.
“The biggest thing I have taken from this experience is to be braver and to push myself outside my comfort zone. The people, the memories, and the sense of achievement are all things I will treasure.”
Natalie Fairbank, CoppaTrekker 2022
For Becky Cheetham, the challenge was out of her comfort zone and she wasn’t too keen on the thought of camping and hiking which was all new to her. Initially feeling worried about whether her team mates would like her, Becky turned out to be the top entertainer and motivator of Team Sophie. She was always around to brighten your day with a smile and a sarcastic one-liner. But this was also the first time that Becky had done anything by herself and if you know Becky, you’ll know she usually has her sister Hannah by her side.
“I didn’t know I had the ability to feel calm inside. But a few days in, I clicked in to the happiest I have felt in a long time. I was put in a position where all I had to do was just think about me, and I kinda liked it. But of course, I missed Hannah and her Facetimes kept me going when the walking got tough.”
Becky Cheetham @cheethamswithdreams
There is no doubt we have all taken something away from the trek. I have a new perspective to not worry about the smaller things, to try to find something positive in every day, and find out something about every person you meet. The girls in my team each taught me something special. I’ll always remember one trekker say they don’t plan too far ahead and enjoy living life as each moment comes. Even Christmas is organised last minute. Every day should be celebrated!
I also know that if I set myself a challenge, I will and I can complete it. I think I’d even sign up for a camping holiday now I’ve managed six nights in a tent.
Emma designed our tit-tees for Team Sophie’s neon day and around camp it was brilliant to see us all dressed up in Pink Clouding merch. Emma organised a catwalk for anyone who had PC items and got Gi and Sophie involved too. As we shimmied, blew kisses, and popped a pose to the camera to a little number from Grease, Emma realised the impact of Pink Clouding and the incredible work she has achieved.
“From the strongest version of myself to the one fighting to get there. That’s exactly how I felt when we reached the finish line.”
Emma, Coppatrekker 2022
If seeing our trek updates, or reading this article has done anything, I hope that it has given you another reminder to check your boobs and pecs. Maybe this has made you curious about the CoppaTrek and you fancy taking on the challenge next year? Or you want to raise awareness and help to educate others on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
Make sure to sign up NOW for reminders to check. If you sign up can have a text sent straight to your mobile once a month reminding you to check your chest.
Get to know your normal.