Greg Eather survived prostate cancer, a heart attack, and a cardiac arrest before the age of 60. The Grafton parkrunner explains how his determination to reclaim his physical fitness has played a significant role in his recovery.
In April 2015 I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer that had a high chance of metastisizing. I was devastated, believing it to be a life sentence.
My specialist, my wife and I decided on a robotic prostatectomy the following month. This surgery was successful and subsequent tests have shown me to be cancer free.
After a six month recovery I threw myself into exercise, and at the end of 2015 was convinced to do my first parkrun. My time was around 32 minutes which I was quite happy with. I continued to do parkrun sporadically and always enjoyed it.
In August 2016 I was completing a 30km ride when I felt pains in my shoulder and neck. On returning home my wife convinced me to go to hospital, and drove me there. On the way over I suffered severe pain in my chest. On arrival at hospital I was admitted into Emergency immediately. Tests were performed and I was told I had suffered a heart attack – I had absolutely know idea I was at risk.
I thought oh well, not too bad, I can recover fairly quickly from that. Unfortunately, whilst laying on the table I went into cardiac arrest. Only around 9% of people survive a cardiac arrest, so luckily I had the right people nearby to save me. After three defibrillator jolts and CPR they managed to resuscitate me.
As Grafton Base Hospital does not have a cath lab I was Westpac helicoptered to Lismore. I was in a world of pain all of the way and into the Cath Lab. I was stented and immediately felt relief. However, my body compensated by telling me I had injured ribs from the life saving CPR. Eight days later whilst still in hospital I received two more stents.
At the time I thought life was over as I knew it, and my confidence was shattered. I was devastated. I do have permanent damage to part of my heart that will never recover.
After release from hospital, I pushed hard to be placed into cardiac rehab as soon as possible and ended up doing six sessions. I totally changed my diet and began walking as much as possible and doing short, slow bike rides.
There is a wonderful worldwide facebook group called Cardiac Athletes run by an Australian that has been absolutely inspirational for me. It is amazing what athletic achievements can be accomplished with heart disease. I cannot stress enough how this amazing group helped with my recovery.
After eight months I decided to return to parkrun and jogged around the course with little confidence. parkrun let me know, that, yes, physically I am capable of continual improvement. Socially, it is amazing to see the numbers of people out there having a go. My time was around 33 minutes, and since then I have done many parkruns in 11 different towns although I have done by far the most in my home town of Grafton.
I have permanent heart damage but if I remain active and work to my limitations I should be fine. I recently played in the National Touch Titles over four days in the over 60s division in Coffs Harbour. Again, something I would have thought absolutely impossible not so long ago. I have entered the UTA 22km run in the Blue Mountains in May this year and I even intend climbing Mt Kiliminjaro in September 2020. My cardiologist is very supportive.
My ultimate aim for parkrun was to break 25 minutes, and I recently achieved that goal with a time of 24:51.
Without parkrun giving me the confidence to run, and support from family and friends and inspiration from the Cardiac Athlete site, I don’t believe I would be as healthy and active as I am. I encourage everyone I meet to come out and participate at whatever pace they are comfortable with.
My aim in talking about this is to let people know that there is hope even if you have been struck a number of times with bad luck. With the right advice and support you can achieve great things.
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