Obesity is the second biggest cause of cancer deaths in the UK, according to Debbie Gardiner.
And she should know – she’s Cancer Research UK’s new cancer campaigns ambassador for south west Bedfordshire.
The charity’s current mission is to rid TV of junk food advertising.
Debbie, 56, of Goldstone Crescent in Dunstable, explains: “We’d like to remove everything relating to junk food when children are watching.
“We’re trying to get people to understand that overweight children become overweight adults.
“But we’re up against companies that are marketing to increase their sales.”
The grandmother-of-three is passionate about her new role and says the reason she personally feels so strongly about it is the number of young people who have late diagnoses, resulting in catastrophic outcomes.
“That’s my motivation,” she admits. “My daughter has a friend who died of cancer in her early 40s.
“She has another who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in her early 30s. She’d been backwards and forwards to the doctor for three or four years before they actually did anything about it and of course it’s been left for too long – the disease has spread.”
The former Queensbury student is chief executive officer of Abingdon-based Qube Learning which provides apprenticeship training funded by the government.
She says: “We’ve always done lots of fundraising for different charities suggested by our staff, but when the wife of one of our team members developed an unusual cancer, we started raising money for CRUK. And then you realise everyone has been touched by cancer somehow.”
Debbie’s money raising ability was so impressive that the charity approached her to become one of its ambassadors.
She says: “I’ve got a really wide network and use that to spread the message. It’s challenging, but I believe in it totally.
She added: “People are incredibly generous, it surprises me all the time. Giving not just money but items we can sell. CRUK gave us 10 places on a tour of their laboratory and that was an amazing experience.
“They’re trying to get young people interested in research, which has fantastic career prospects.”
Debbie started work at Sainsbury’s in vocational training and moved to Qube in 2000. Six years later she became managing director and in 2009 was appointed chief executive officer.
The company has 175 employees based all over the country.