Cambs woman with incurable cancer gets royal send-off for Atlantic row

Kat (pictured) joins Charlotte and Abby on their Atlantic row challenge - they had a special message from the Duchess

Kat (pictured) joins Charlotte and Abby on their Atlantic row challenge this December - they even had a special message from the Duchess of Cornwall. - Credit: Cancer Research/ SNAP

A St Neots woman with incurable cancer - who has set off on a 3,000-mile row across the Atlantic - has received a nautical send-off from a royal admirer. 

Kat Cordiner, 40, and her teammates Charlotte Irving, 31 and Abby Johnston, 32, had a hand-written note from Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. 

The women set off today (November 29) to take on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in a bid to raise £100,000 for Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. 

Kat, Charlotte and Abby set off on their Atlantic row challenge today (November 2

Kat, Charlotte and Abby set off on their Atlantic row challenge today (November 29). - Credit: Southern News & Pictures (SNAP)

They will make the crossing in a 25ft boat called Dolly Parton. 

Last year, during lockdown, Kat was given her second cancer diagnosis and told that this time, the disease was incurable.  

She knows her time is limited but undeterred, she is taking on a challenge that would push even someone at their physical peak to the limit of their endurance. 

The Duchess of Cornwall heard about the girls’ attempt and was moved to hear that Kat is in treatment for stage four ovarian cancer. 

Kat, Charlotte and Abby had a hand-written note from Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. 

Kat, Charlotte and Abby had a hand-written note from Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. - Credit: Cancer Research UK

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On Clarence House headed notepaper, Prince Charles’ wife wrote: “Dear Abby, Kat and Charlotte, I send my very best wishes to you all as you embark on your ‘oarsome’ undertaking to row across the Atlantic for such a brilliant cause. 

“May I wish you fair winds and following seas. 

“With my best wishes.” 

It is thought that Kat may be the first person to tackle this challenge as a cancer patient. 

The trio will be at sea for up to 60 days – unsupported – rowing two hours on and two hours off continuously from December to January. 

Kat (pictured) joins Charlotte and Abby on their Atlantic row challenge this December.

Kat (pictured) joins Charlotte and Abby on their Atlantic row challenge this December. - Credit: Southern News & Pictures (SNAP)

If something goes wrong, they can only be helicoptered out in the first or last 200 miles. 

Kat, who now lives in London, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in March 2019, completely by chance as she was having her eggs harvested in the hope of having a baby in the future. 

Kat underwent a radical hysterectomy but doctors left her ovaries as she wanted to do another round of egg-freezing.  

Once her eggs were harvested, she had her ovaries removed as there was a higher chance of the cancer returning if they remained. 

The news came just after Kat had returned from taking part in the 2018 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, where she met Abby and they came up with the idea of the Atlantic row. 

After the surgery, all seemed well. But last June, Kat began experiencing stomach pains. 

“My doctor talked about other possibilities like infections but I knew instantly the cancer was back,” she said. 

After the exhausting intensive cancer treatment, heart surgery and six months without training, Kat got back in the boat. 

“The heart surgery was horrendous but it hasn’t weakened my heart – all my tests are really good and the medics are happy,” Kat continued. 

Kat is now in remission and only taking drugs to deal with the effects of being plunged into an early menopause. 

Kat is an International Manager at HSBC, Londoner Charlotte is a marketing manager and Abby is a professional rowing coach from Surrey. 

On the water, they have experience, determination and grit and they hope to be record-breakers. 

“As a crew of three women, we have to be more strategic – we’re not as strong as men,” said Charlotte. 

“But the world record for the fastest female trio is a realistic goal. It’s currently 49 days. 

“The only thing that would really impede us is if we hit very strong headwinds or if something breaks and we’re unable to fix it,” she said. 

The women need to be their own mechanics, electricians, doctors – and best friends. 

Kat added: “To me, this challenge also represents something more – to live like I’ve never lived before. We grow up thinking we’re guaranteed 85 years of life and the ability to do what we want. 

“The challenge to row the Atlantic in aid of three epic charities with the hopes of smashing the word record is one that we are incredibly passionate about – cancer won’t stand in our way.” 

The team start the challenge from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 12.