Breast cancer survivor Fiona Edwards has spent 20 years supporting research into the disease and raised the magnificent sum through the sale of homemade tablet.
And her achievement was marked recently with a unique commemorative gift.
Keen runner and tennis player, Fiona has received a few medals in her time, but none of those that have hung round her neck were made from the same sugary treat that she has been making to fund research at the University of Dundee.
The medal, commissioned by the university to thank her for her tireless efforts, was designed by one of its graduates, Finlay Grant. Finlay encased tablet in resin to enable it to be shaped and preserved. The medal, which rests in a groove-chiselled wooden stand, was presented recently at a ceremony at Ninewells Hospital’s Clinical Research Centre.
Fiona started selling her homemade tablet back in 2003, two years after being diagnosed with breast cancer and successfully treated for the disease. Since then, she estimates she has made an incredible 280,000 bars of tablet. If stacked on top of each other the 15mm high bars would reach a staggering 4200 metres (13,780 feet), more than three times the height of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest peak.
In order to create this mountain of tablet, it took something in the region of 11,200 kg of sugar, 4400 kg of condensed milk, 5100 litres of milk and 5100 teaspoons of vanilla essence.
At 57kg, Fiona weighs less than 0.5% of the sugar she has used over the past 20 years.
Fiona, who has previously won awards recognising her tireless efforts, says she can now hang up her apron satisfied that she has finally hit her long-term target.
She said: “I thought that either 20 years or £100,000 would be a good place to stop so it feels amazing to have reached both milestones at the same time and to be able to stand down knowing I’ve been able to help such an important cause.
“I’m not missing it, to be honest. I used to set my alarm for stupid o’clock and go to the kitchen and make two batches of tablet first thing, every single day unless I was on holiday. That was before I went to work or to the gym or whatever else I had on that day. Now I get up and make myself a cup of tea then go back to bed for an hour.
“I have so many people to thank, not least my family who have put up with the house smelling like tablet every day for the past 20 years and with me constantly working away in the kitchen. I have had support from thousands of people over the years, from those who bought tablet to those who put some coins in the tin even if they weren’t buying. Lots of people have donated large sums directly as well, particularly in the past year, and I am so grateful to everyone.”
Over the past two decades, Fiona’s sweet treats have raised an incredible £99,731 to fund research into breast cancer, including £7142 in 2022.
Her fundraising efforts had been derailed by lockdown and the resulting move towards a cashless society, leading her to fear she would not hit her £100,000 target before the end of the 20-year limit she had put on her baking career.
To get her over the final hurdle, Fiona set up a JustGiving page where her long-term customers, breast cancer charity supporters and members of the public could donate. That initiative brought in a further £1968, meaning Fiona has raised £101,700 since 2003.
Fiona continued: “It is definitely the right time to bin my wooden spoon when you look at how much ingredients have shot up in price over the past year. I had a look around the supermarket the other day and a bar that I would have made for 11p would now cost over 20p.
" It would have been heartbreaking to see the money I wanted to go to charity be swallowed up by inflation. I also never took any money for energy costs, so thank goodness I am not making batch after batch right now.
“Similarly, the changes that Covid brought have hit me hard as well. I always sold a lot of tablet at running events and on the sidelines at youth football matches but no one carries cash anymore so it was getting harder and harder. When this whole thing escalated I knew I had to be totally committed to raise the kind of sums I wanted to. I enjoy the pressure being off now.”
Over the years, Fiona’s hard work has helped fund research projects and purchase specialist equipment at the University’s School of Medicine.
The £9110 Fiona raised in 2022 will allow the team there to maintain and develop its extensive breast cancer research database.
Professor Rory McCrimmon, Dean of the School of Medicine, thanked Fiona for all her efforts, saying: “What Fiona has done over the past 20 years is absolutely remarkable. Her commitment to fundraising has supported studies that have increased our knowledge of this disease and that will hopefully inform further discoveries in future.
“People like Fiona are the unsung heroes of medical research. Without them and the money they raise, a lot of the breakthroughs that save and enhance lives simply wouldn’t happen. Everyone at the School of Medicine is extremely grateful for all her hard work over the years, particularly my colleagues working to improve outcomes for breast cancer patients.”
Anyone who still wishes to donate to Fiona’s efforts can donate at her JustGiving page until Tuesday 28 February – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/fionaedwards10.