By JANN BURMESTER
A former Byron Bay woman who was diagnosed with leukaemia nearly three years ago will walk from Albury to Melbourne next month to raise money for the establishment of the first molecular testing centre in Australia. Nicole Shipard, who worked at S-Cape Byron Surf Shop, will walk the 360 kilometres in an effort to raise $250,000 for stage one of a centre for leukaemia genetics at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. The $6 million centre is being headed by Dr Annabelle Tuckfield and is being built in three stages - stage one is nearly complete, but another $250,000 is still required. Nicole, who has been in remission for nearly three years, will walk the 360 kilometres starting in Albury on October 2 and finishing in Melbourne on October 16. She and seven other family members and friends hope to cover about 30 kilometres a day. "I'm feeling great and I have been in training for the walk," Nicole said. "I have been walking 20 kilometres, three times a week, and also been spending time at the gym. "I have been one of the lucky ones, I have survived, but 60 per cent of leukaemia patients die and I wanted to do something to help improve those survival statistics. "At the moment it takes four months to get a molecular test in Australia and that is just too long, otherwise the service is only available overseas." Nicole said the service was life saving as it detected any relapse in leukaemia. While she is on the road, Nicole will carry a journal which she is hoping other leukaemia survivors will write in. She said she hoped to get the journal published and then have it given to newly-diagnosed leukaemia patients. Nicole is studying photography and parks and heritage at university. After the walk, Nicole hopes to head to Byron Bay and catch up with friends and go surfing. If you would like to make a donation you can phone 1800 625650.
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