Woman with incurable cancer part of trio aiming for record row across Atlantic

A woman with incurable cancer is part of a rowing trio who are aiming to break the world record for rowing across the Atlantic.

If completed, it is believed that 40-year-old Kat Cordiner will be the first cancer patient to complete the 3,000 mile journey across the ocean.

She will be joined by her two friends Charlotte Irving, 31 and Abby Johnston, 32, in a 25ft boat called Dolly Parton as they aim to defeat the previous fastest female trio record of 49 days.

Ms Cordiner is taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge despite being told her second cancer diagnosis is incurable.

Her original diagnosis of cervical cancer in March 2019 was only discovered because she was having her eggs frozen in the hope of having children in the future.

After undergoing a radical hysterectomy to enable her to have her eggs harvested, her ovaries were removed but the cancer returned.

In total, she had six sessions of radiotherapy, a heart surgery to remove a myxoma (benign cardiac tumour) and several other treatments which allowed her to get back into training but did not cure the cancer.

She said: “I did have moments where I thought I might not be able to do this because I might not get medical sign off, but I think more than anything, it kind of just spurred me on more.

Kat Cordiner
Kat Cordiner (Cancer Research UK/PA)

“I do remember my cardiologist, when they told me about the myxoma, I just said ‘can I still row the Atlantic?’, and they said, ‘well, okay, when is that? Why is that your first question?’”

She added: “To be honest I was more concerned for the girls, whether they would be happy and whether they would want to sub me out knowing that I potentially wasn’t going to be able to train as much.”

The three women will be unsupported and will have to row two hours on and two hours off continuously from December to January.

The 3,000 mile journey could take up to 60 days and, if something goes wrong, they can only be helicoptered out in the first or last 200 miles.

Ms Johnston said: “To say it’s been like a second job is almost underselling it, it’s almost more than a second job because it really does take over your life, and we have laid that groundwork now so I just really can’t wait to be able to push off and get out into open sea, where all we have to worry about is rowing.”

Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge
The team preparing to take part in the the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (Cancer Research UK/PA)

Describing themselves as “three ordinary girls who have decided to do something extraOARdinary”, the trio are aiming to raise £100,000 for Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

Ms Cordiner said: “I feel quite uncomfortable with the phrase inspirational if I’m honest, because I feel like anybody could do if they really put their mind to it and wanted to.

“There is a tonne of people out there that I would refer to as inspirational, so no, I don’t consider myself such.”

The women are bringing Dolly Parton’s music along to keep morale high, and a Christmas Carol playlist to be played on Christmas day.

Ms Irving said: “It may be Christmas Day – we can sing along but we’ll still be rowing.”

The challenge begins in La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 12 2021, and a fundraising ball is being held is Grosvenor House, London on September 18.

Lynn Daly, spokeswoman for Cancer Research UK, said: “We are in awe of what Charlotte, Abby and particularly Kat are taking on. It’s is a Herculean challenge – but these are very determined women and we salute their strength and courage.

“As well as the physical challenge and a word record attempt, they have set themselves a target or raising £100,000 for Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and The Royal Marsden Charity, so we hope the public will get behind them and help them reach their ambitious goals.”