A year ago I was probably the fittest I’d been in my adult life. I was exercising and running regularly and (after a very slow burn) was truly loving it. The headspace I found while running was an unexpected benefit, but physically I was feeling great too. Little did I know that I was actually already ill at that point and was about to face the biggest challenge of my life. I was still 3 months away from diagnosis but the tumour was already there. Silently trying to kill me.
But (for a change) I’m not going to write about breast cancer. That’s (kind of) over now, having had my final radiotherapy 5 days ago. And what better way to celebrate than to prove that I’ve won the battle by getting my running shoes back on. My family weren’t too convinced by my plan to do my first ever park run so soon after the end of radiotherapy. And I do understand that my body needs time to recover and heal. But cancer has taken so much of my time and I’m just not prepared to allow it to take a moment more. I promised that I wouldn’t push myself too hard, would walk part of the 5k course and would bale out if need be. They didn’t even try too hard to talk me out of it – they are now very used to the pig headedness (I prefer to call it steely determination!) that has carried me through 2017.
I thought long and hard about the wig situation. Running in a wig isn’t ideal. Although incredibly secure there’s always a small part of me that’s worried about losing it. What if it gets hooked on a tree branch? Blows into the lake? It can also get quite warm under there. I have a half decent head of hair now. It’s too short for my liking – I’m not a pixie cut kinda girl, but it’s perfectly acceptable. So I also decided that, for the first time, I’d venture out into the big wide world without either the wig or a cap. Another milestone.
I proudly wore my “Cancer was here… but I kicked its ass” t-shirt given to me by one of my closest friends to mark the end of cancer treatment. Ad and Josh joined me but were given strict instruction to run off ahead – I knew I would be slow.
Despite the rain there was a huge turnout at Arrow Valley Parkrun this morning. It was Parkrun’s 13th birthday – what a great day to choose to do my very first. The rain cleared, the atmosphere was amazing and the support from fellow runners and marshals was incredible. It’s like they knew I needed that extra bit of encouragement to drag myself round the 5k lakeside course. Maybe the t-shirt and lack of hair gave it away! As one runner ran past me he called out that he loved the t-shirt – he’d probably only seen the back of it at that point!
It was tough. I knew it would be. I’ve done zero exercise this year and my body has been abused to breaking point by the cancer treatment. I used to run 5k’s in around 30 mins so I was optimistically hoping for sub 40 mins. My legs felt like lead and my breathing was erratic. I felt incredibly emotional as I was plodding up towards the finish line. And then I saw my boys waiting for me at the home straight, cheering me on, running the last few meters with me. They gave me the energy I needed to cross the finish line.
I am delighted with my finishing time of 38:44 – but I’m even happier that I now feel that I’m well and truly on the road to recovery.