Tablet proves to be tonic, even in the toughest of times

Even a global pandemic has not proven formidable enough to prevent one-woman tablet-making machine Fiona Edwards from raising thousands of pounds for research at the University of Dundee.

Fiona first began selling her homemade tablet to help support breast cancer research 18 years ago. Despite the difficulties that 2020 has presented, she has generated another £3,100 over the course of the year, bringing the total she has raised since 2003 to more than £88,000.

The money will help the team led by Professor Andrew Evans at the University’s School of Medicine to continue recruiting patients to the CONTEST study, which has been severely affected by COVID-19 restrictions.

Fiona started the year by picking up No 1 Magazine's Amazing Lifetime Inspiration Award for her fundraising efforts but was forced to mothball her sweet treat factory when the UK went into lockdown in March. Since then, she has been selling tablet as restrictions have allowed.

“I started the year brilliantly and by the end of February I was in record breaking territory for selling tablet,” she explained. “Then, as we know, everything went pear shaped. I didn't make a single bar through to June when I was able to sell it at Balhungie Berry Farm pop up summer shop.

“Most of the money is raised by me trekking round youth football matches on Sundays and selling to parents on the sidelines that hasn’t been possible due to restrictions. It has been disappointing but I’m glad I’ve still been able to raise more than £3000. The break has, however, enabled me to see what it is like to have a normal life instead of getting up and making two batches of tablet per day. I didn't know what to do with myself in the first few months!”

The CONTEST study compares enhanced mammography (a mammogram after an injection of contrast) with MRI if the breast. If contrast-enhanced mammography proves as effective as MRI then it will bring significant benefits for patients as it is faster, cheaper and can be carried out in the clinic.

The project was initially made possible by money raised by Fiona over the past few years. Work was stopped earlier this year but the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government funded an extension to allow the project to restart last month. The latest donation from Fiona will help the team to continue recruiting until April. 

Professor Evans said, “The fact that Fiona has raised this amount during the COVID crisis is amazing. The money is much needed as we try to complete studies put on hold by the crisis, especially as the breast cancer charities which fund many of our studies have had their income drop substantially this year.”

Fiona’s exploits also help a second worthy cause as part of Balhungie Farm Shop’s profits go to helping provide meals for needy children in Africa. Through the charity ABC Africa, money raised this year will support schools in Namibia severely hit by COVID-19.