Sisters turning their grief into hope raise tens of thousands in memory of mum and brother

Charlotte Thomas and Katrin Merry turned to fundraising to help deal with the trauma of losing two of their closest relatives to the same disease

TWO Cardiff sisters are planning a five-day charity trek in Jordan, after turning their grief into hope and raising thousands of pounds for Pancreatic Cancer UK.

In 2001, Charlotte Thomas, 47, lost her mum, Mavis Dallinger, to pancreatic cancer. In 2016, she lost her brother, Mark Merry, to the same disease.

Despite the 15-year gap between her mum and brother being diagnosed, Ms Thomas, who lives in Llanishen, said there was little progress made in research to save Mr Merry’s life.

“It was horrendous, we all just crumbled a little bit. We all knew what was coming,” she said.

“We tried to be positive and look at alternative treatments. There just didn’t seem to be anything. We live in the hope that the future is going to be better. There’s lots of brilliant research that is on the verge of breaking through.

“Fundraising is helping us deal with our own grief. We feel it’s a chance, every November, to talk about them, to remember them. It’s tough, I find it quite hard to tell the story over and over again. But it’s for a positive thing.”

Charlotte’s mum, Mavis Dallinger, and brother, Mark Merry, both died of pancreatic cancer. Despite being diagnosed 15 years apart, Ms Thomas said there has been little progress in terms of research and treatment.

Over the years, Ms Thomas and her family have channeled their grief into raising awareness for the cancer, fundraising tens of thousands of pounds for Pancreatic Cancer UK.

This year alone, they have raised £7,912. They hope this will go towards funding better treatment for a cancer which proves more difficult to detect.

In 2016, Ms Thomas decided to start raising money for Pancreatic Cancer UK in memory of her mum.

But it was while she was training for that year’s London Marathon that her brother was diagnosed with the disease.

“When my brother was diagnosed we thought it must have moved on, there must be better treatments, better outcomes,” she said

“But the statistics have barely changed over the past 50 years. While research into other cancers has come on extraordinarily, pancreatic cancer is still way behind.”

On Saturday, 17 November, Ms Thomas, her sister Katrin Merry, and their partners, are travelling to Jordan for a five-day charity trek to Petra. The family are joining a team of 32 people on the “adventure” but are the only four fundraising for pancreatic cancer.

Back on home turf, the family have organised for Roath Park lighthouse to be lit purple throughout November, to mark Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month.

Roath Park lighthouse will be lit up purple for the duration of November, to mark Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month and raise awareness of the deadly disease.

In the past, the family have taken on ultramarathons, hiked Machu Pichu, held coffee mornings, and lit iconic buildings purple to raise money and awareness for the disease. The Machu Pichu trek alone raised £10,000.

In 2019, Ms Thomas also made national news when her street was lit in purple to mark Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month.

Ms Thomas said funding further research and awareness is key to ensuring more people survive their diagnosis: “My mum had been misdiagnosed several times, they said it was sciatica, then gall stones. She was back and forth until she was in so much pain, she had a CT scan privately.

“Unfortunately it’s the type of cancer that’s difficult to find, treat and cure. Early diagnosis is key with it. Lots of the symptoms are very vague.

“It’s only when the symptoms are bad it’s diagnosed. It’s a really deadly cancer.”

According to Pancreatic Cancer UK, the disease often doesn’t cause symptoms in the early stages. As it grows it may start to cause symptoms, but they may not be specific to pancreatic cancer and they may come and go.

According to the charity, knowing the key symptoms is vital to early diagnosis. These are:

  • Indigestion
  • Tummy pain or back pain
  • Changes to your poo
  • Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes and itchy skin)
  • Recently diagnosed diabetes
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Blood clots
  • Fatigue

If you’d like to donate to Ms Thomas and Ms Merry’s fundraising efforts, go to