SHE lost two beloved family members to cancer in little over 48 hours and has a third relative who is also battling the disease.

Now Ellie Whittaker, 20, and a group of friends from the University of York - who have also all been personally affected by cancer in some way - are preparing to take part in York's Race for Life this weekend to raise funds for Cancer Research UK.

Ellie, who is president of the women's football club at the university, said that when she originally decided to run in this year's Race for Life, it was in honour of three family members who were all battling different forms of cancer.

"Tragically, just a couple of months later, just one of those family members, one of my uncles, is still with us," she said.

She lost her grandmother, Audrey Doona, to advanced stomach cancer on May 14 and then her cousin Jamie Hughes, 55, on May 16. "It was the most horrendous thing I have ever been through," said Ellie, from Blackpool. "I wouldn’t wish what my family and I have been through on my worst enemy.

"I am now racing in their memory, and in the hope that a cure for this dreadful disease can be found sooner rather than later."

She said that instead of battling the 10km race alone, she realised it would be better to do it as a group, and team Yorkie Girls was born, now comprising about 20 students, many of them members of her football team.

The girls have already raised more than £1,000. To sponsor them, go to

Thousands of people have signed up to take part in the Race for Life, which takes place at York Racecourse on Sunday.

*The Press will be publishing a special supplement, featuring pictures of runners in the race, next Monday.