Luton woman inspired to step into the boxing ring by her mum’s own fight against deadly cancer

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Ultra White Collar Boxing participants raise cash for Cancer Research UK

A Luton woman has told how she stepped into the boxing ring for the first time in her life to raise funds for charity after her beloved mum was diagnosed with a deadly form of brain cancer.

Lauren Duguid Smith was determined to show her support for mother Shirley Dinham as she battled the disease.

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Sadly Shirley didn't survive her cancer but Lauren, 38, has told her story to encourage other people to consider raising funds for Cancer Research UK and find a new challenge after the lockdown.

Lauren Duguid Smith (in blue) taking part at the Ultra White Collar Boxing Event in LutonLauren Duguid Smith (in blue) taking part at the Ultra White Collar Boxing Event in Luton
Lauren Duguid Smith (in blue) taking part at the Ultra White Collar Boxing Event in Luton | other

On the night of Lauren’s bout Shirley, a grandmother of 10, took a turn for the worse and was too ill to attend.

But it didn’t stop her toasting Lauren’s efforts with a glass of prosecco while watching her bout on FaceTime at her care home.

Lauren said: "I was really nervous and I was upset because my mum was going to come and watch but she was still able to watch it - and she screamed the care home down.

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"All the carers kept coming in to watch it. She was really happy - she cried, quite a lot.

Lauren Duguid Smith (left) with her mum Shirley Dinham before she became terminally ill.Lauren Duguid Smith (left) with her mum Shirley Dinham before she became terminally ill.
Lauren Duguid Smith (left) with her mum Shirley Dinham before she became terminally ill. | other

"At the end of my bout, she shouted at the phone saying how proud she was - I sobbed."

Ultra White Collar Boxing participants raise cash for Cancer Research UK by taking part in eight weeks of free professional training before a bout with an opponent in front of hundreds of spectators.

Those taking part are asked to sell tickets for the show and raise at least £50 for the charity.

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Lauren said her mother was in America for a family wedding when she suffered a seizure two days before she was due to return home in April 2018.

Lauren took part in the Ultra White Collar Boxing Event in LutonLauren took part in the Ultra White Collar Boxing Event in Luton
Lauren took part in the Ultra White Collar Boxing Event in Luton | other

Tests confirmed she had a brain tumour and she eventually flew home two weeks later - but medics in the UK revealed she was not well enough to be treated with anything other than tablets.

Sadly, the retired clinic manager at the Royal Free Hospital, London, died 20 months after being diagnosed - five days before Christmas last year, aged jut 59.

Lauren said: "I flew out within 24 hours because I couldn't cope with the fact of not knowing what was happening and even if she was going to come home.

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"She had seizure after seizure, she lost all the feeling in her left side, and it just kind of went on.

"Then we had to get her in a care home home and it was tough because my mum was only 59.

"There were the odd few things that we thought about after she died.

"Mum always suffered with headaches and we reckon she had this cancer for years.

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"But we just put it down to stress at work because she was travelling to London every day, and just normal life. It was just so shocking."

Lauren praised trainers at Storm Gym, Luton, for 'keeping her strong' while her mother was unwell.

The mother-of-three recalled squeezing in training in between her office assistant job and caring for her mother before she died.

She was surrounded by loved ones - including partner James Duguid, 37, dad Trevor Smith, 59, brother Ryan Smith, 36, and daughter Tamara Smith, 19 - when she entered the ring at Luton's Auction House for her bout.

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Lauren has raised more than £1,300, she said: "Cancer has been around for so many years. I just wanted to know why it was my mum.

"She worked so hard all her life and I wanted to do something to help the fight against cancer.

"During an awful time the training helped me because it kept my mind strong, it kept me going.

"The trainers were brilliant."

She added: "I found it really tough, I'm not a very fit person.

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"But then once I started seeing the difference in me, it was like 'wow'. It really does help.

"By the end of it, I couldn't believe how much my fitness levels had changed.

"I really didn't think I could do it. It was scary but amazing at the same time.

"I was still happy I did it even though I lost. The woman I ended up against was amazing and she had lost her dad a couple of months before I met her, with the same cancer my mum had.

"I was happy she won."

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So far, Ultra Events - the company behind the event - has raised almost £22 million for Cancer Research UK.

No date has been fixed for the next Ultra White Collar Boxing event in Luton but Jon Leonard who runs the organisation is encouraging those who are thinking of taking part to sign up now.

He also paid tribute to Lauren's efforts saying: "What a fantastic effort by Lauren and I was very sad to hear that her mum has now passed away. She must have been very proud of Lauren.

"I would say to anyone who is looking for a new challenge after the lockdown to come and join us. It is a great way to get fit, make new friends and try something totally different."

Anyone interested in taking part can click here.