AN AWARD-WINNING chef who runs an Asian food business has raised more than £7,000 for a cancer charity by hiking to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Lorna Nanda Gangotra made the 16,000ft trek to thank Macmillan Cancer Support for the help it gave after her mother received a diagnosis of the disease.

And she said it was important for others, particularly from the South Asian community, to feel they can speak more openly about cancer, the signs and symptoms, treatment and support available.

Kilimanjaro is the world’s highest single free-standing mountain and temperatures can drop to -20C.

“There was excitement and nerves as I pushed myself to new limits,” Lorna said.

“But I am very grateful that I have had the opportunity to do this. The hardships we endured and the people who assisted us, have irrevocably changed my life forever.”

Lorna runs Lorna’s Indian Kitchen, which offers cookery classes and supper clubs and has had stalls at the Woking Food Festival and Ripley Farmers' Market.

She began her business, which operates across and beyond Surrey, after deciding to give up her corporate career in mobile telecommunications. She has an MBA from Birmingham University, a BA (Hons) in Business Studies from Greenwich University and wanted to combine this knowledge with her love of food.

In 2017, Lorna and her sisters, who were nicknamed the Indian Spice Girls, won the first series of The Big Family Cooking Showdown on BBC TV.

During filming for the show their mum, Harbhajan Kaur, received a cancer diagnosis and went on to have surgery and intense chemotherapy.

“It shook our world,” Lorna said.“Her symptoms were initially very difficult to control so it was a rather frightening and uncertain time, but she received all the necessary treatments and eventually came through.

“In all her challenges she has shown strength, courage, determination, and the ability to always keep the faith. I tried to mirror some of those traits to help me reach the top of Kilimanjaro.

“I do not have the right words to express my gratitude as to how Macmillan Cancer Support helped my mum and my family get through her cancer journey.”

Lorna said her mum is OK and is having regular check-ups.

Lorna and her mum, Harbhajan Kaur. (Picture supplied)

“Sometimes these charities can all seem a bit abstract but just know the work these people do is incredible and really does matter.

“I knew back then that I wanted to give back to them in some shape or form. So, when this opportunity arose, I took it and mum totally agreed.”

Lorna said she did a lot of training around Surrey.

Shortly before she went to Tanzania for the trek, her auntie died from cancer two and-a-half weeks after having a diagnosis.

Lorna said she now wants to encourage others to speak more openly about cancer, the signs and symptoms, treatment and support available.

“People from the South Asian community can often feel embarrassed or ashamed about the word ‘cancer’ or symptoms they may have so do not talk to anyone about it or visit the GP when they should,” she said.

Chie Ishihara, Macmillan’s Surrey fundraising manager, said: “We are so grateful to Lorna for taking on this incredible challenge and raising so much money for Macmillan.

“It will help us to provide much-needed practical, emotional and financial support to people living with cancer particularly with the current cost of living crisis.

“Lorna’s enthusiasm and drive has been an inspiration to us all and we look forward to working further with her to help raise awareness of Macmillan services in her area and among her community.”

Lorna said her mother is very proud of her for getting to the top of Kilimanjaro.

“Training and taking part in this challenge has been fantastic and truly life affirming,” she said. “I’ve actually developed a love of goblet squats, step-ups and downhill lunges. It only took me 46 years to find out.”