West Lothian schoolboy led charge against cancer at Cancer Research UK’s Pretty Muddy Edinburgh race

Leo Barker, an 11-year-old from Livingston, has been chosen as the voice of Cancer Research UK’s Pretty Muddy Kids events this year, after undergoing a life-saving liver transplant.

By Anna Bryan
Sunday, 19th June 2022, 2:35 pm

The West Lothian schoolboy, who is in remission from cancer, took to the stage and waved to the crowd at the Pretty Muddy 5k race in The Meadows on Sunday.

The crowd in Edinburgh listened to Leo’s cancer story, which will also be played at hundreds of other Pretty Muddy events across the UK this year.

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Leo’s mum Laura Barker, 41, dad Stephen Barker, 44, and brother Cole, 14, watched on proudly, as the 11-year-old took part in the 5k mud-splattered route, facing obstacles including an inflatable mud slide, space hoppers and a scramble net.

Leo said: “Thanks to life-saving treatment I’m back at school and back on the judo mat.

“In June 2020 when the world was in lockdown I was diagnosed with cancer in my liver. My mum took me to the doctor because I had a lump in my stomach. Later that day the doctors in the hospital told me it was cancer. Everything happened so fast. I had chemotherapy and eventually needed a liver transplant. I was flown down by air ambulance to Birmingham Children’s hospital where I had my transplant.

“I was dancing six days later. I am so happy to be feeling better and to have my strength back. I am loving spending time with friends and competing on the judo mat again. I recently won a bronze medal at the British Judo schools championships. I am so grateful to all the doctors and nurses and research teams that helped make me better.”

Leo Barker, an 11-year-old from Livingston who had a liver transplant during the pandemic after being diagnosed with cancer sounds the horn at the start of Pretty Muddy Kids at the the Meadow’s, Edinburgh. (Photo credit: Lesley Martin)

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, raises millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer by funding crucial research. 

Over £78,756 was raised for the charity at the Edinburgh event, which more than 1,000 adults and children took part in. The vital funds raised will be used to enable scientists to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

The organisers of Pretty Muddy Edinburgh are now appealing for those who took part to pay in their sponsorship money as soon as possible.

Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman in Scotland, said: “We are incredibly grateful to everyone who took part in Pretty Muddy Edinburgh.

Leo in an air ambulance, flying to Birmingham for his liver transplant.

“Life-saving research is being funded right now thanks to our supporters who fundraise. The atmosphere at Pretty Muddy Edinburgh was hugely moving- full of emotion, courage, tears and laughter as people celebrated the lives of those dear to them who have survived cancer and remembered loved ones lost to the disease.

“Now we’re asking everyone who took part to return the money they’re raised as soon as possible. Funds raised- whether it’s £10 or £100 will help scientists find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, helping save more lives.”

Oonagh Turnbull, Head of Health Campaigns at Tesco, said: “This will be our 21st year in partnership with Cancer Research UK and Race for Life and we hope this year can be the biggest yet.”  

Over 1,000 people took part in Edinburgh's Pretty Muddy events on Sunday. (Photo credit: Lesley Martin)