Press release posted 14 September 2023

Former property agent Mike Rooney, of Todmorden, is teaming up with three good friends to take on the historic 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trek in a heartfelt fundraising challenge in memory of his wife Janet.

Their mission is to raise a staggering £100K for Manchester’s Christie Charity to establish The Janet Rooney Fellowship, dedicated to advancing research in hepato-pancreatic biliary (HPB) cancer. HPB cancer includes cancers that originate in the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and neuroendocrine system (made up of nerves and gland cells). This endeavour is not just a journey, it is a tribute to Mike's late wife, Janet Rooney, who died from bile duct cancer in April this year and was treated at The Christie hospital.

In the past, Mike has undertaken marathons, parachuting, climbed Kilimanjaro and all sorts of other challenges and felt that this fundraising project should be something equally, if not more, demanding to raise as much money as possible, so he decided to tackle the Camino De Santiago.

Caption: Mike Rooney and Nigel Tobias

Initially Mike’s plan was going to go it alone but before he knew it, his good friend Nigel Tobias from Hale - who was also good friends with Janet - plus two other friends Paul Whitehurst in Stockport and David Brooks in London also came on board, to support Mike with setting up the Janet Rooney Fellowship and to join him on the trek.

The Camino de Santiago is a legendary pilgrimage route and is known for its spiritual significance and transformative experiences. For Mike and his friends, it also symbolises their determination to combat HPB cancer by raising much-needed funds for research. The trek serves as the cornerstone of their fundraising efforts, uniting individuals and communities in their shared goal of making a difference.

The walk starts in France on Wednesday 20 September 2023, crosses the Pyrenees, and ends in Santiago in North-West Spain taking a minimum of 35 days to complete. Not an easy task for anyone, but both Mike and David have new knees, to add to their personal walking challenge! 

Mike 63, Nigel 64, Paul 61, and David 68 will all pay their own costs of travel, accommodation, food and kit, to guarantee that the full 100% of monies raised will go to The Christie Charity / Janet Rooney Fellowship.

Mike found that the fundraising process helped give him a focus, as he explains: "I've had dark and tough moments since Janet died and I grieve every day, but I knew I had to keep going so these fundraising challenges have helped me stay positive. Janet was my wife, mother of our three wonderful children and my best friend. She was well loved by anyone who got to know her. I've heard many people describe her as 'beautiful inside and out'. This walk, and all our fundraising events, are all in her memory and to support the fight against this dreadful disease which affects so many people.

"Everyone on the planet is affected by cancer. I naively thought it was beatable, but cancer can still be as bad as it always was, unless you catch it early. Janet had bile duct cancer which was hard to detect as it was hidden behind the liver. There isn't enough research into this so I wanted to try and do something about it, if I could."

In addition to the Camino de Santiago trek, Mike and his friends have organised many other fundraising activities and events, including a fundraising pre-festive dinner and auction at The Midland Hotel Manchester in November. The overwhelming response from supporters has already resulted in a sold-out event, boosting their confidence in achieving their ambitious £100,000 target. Mike adds,

"It's been heartening and life-affirming to see all the donations flooding in and all the support we've received and I'm sure we're going to reach our fundraising target of £100K.”

The Janet Rooney Fellowship will be a lasting tribute to Janet's memory and will play a crucial role in advancing HPB cancer research. HPB cancers, including those of the liver, pancreas, and bile ducts, pose significant challenges in diagnosis and treatment. The fellowship will provide the necessary resources to propel research efforts forward and improve patient outcomes.

Last updated: September 2023