76-year-old Doug Kneen (third from left) started parkrun following a diagnosis of bowel, prostate and skin cancer – all on the same day!
Doug explains how volunteering at parkrun gets him out of the house on a Saturday morning, and has had a major impact on his physical and mental health.
In February 2021 I was sitting in the medical office alongside my daughter waiting for the results of some blood tests. The surgeon who was delivering the news said he was going to give it to me straight.
‘You’ve got bowel cancer, prostate cancer and skin cancer,’ he told me. ‘If you’re going to do something, you may as well do it right!’
It wasn’t the first time I’d had health issues, having suffered a heart attack and a stroke and a diagnosis of type-2 diabetes years earlier. These things can just happen as you get older, and you deal with them as best you can.
But I felt at the time as though I was in good health, having been a full-time carer for my wife for seven years who had Alzheimer’s. Even when she moved into an aged care facility where she lived for around four years, I would visit her most days. My number one priority in life was making sure she was okay. It was only fair – she put up with a lot from me over 52 years! She passed away only eight months ago.
Two of my daughters are parkrunners and one daughter also brings her five and 10-year-old, and it was they who initially suggested I come to Wangaratta parkrun. Having been involved in Apex and the local Lions Club for many years I was passionate about volunteering. parkrun gave me the motivation to get out of the house plus the opportunity to feel great about myself by supporting others.
My first parkrun experience was as a barcode scanner, which is a really straightforward role and I appreciated having so many supportive people around me. I quickly went on to do all the other roles around the finish area, such as timekeeper, handing out position tokens and taking photos.
The finish area at parkrun has to be one of the happiest places I’ve ever been. I love standing there every week and seeing people’s smiles as they cross the line and knowing that I am part of that experience. It makes me feel terrific.
The other bonus has been the people I’ve met. I’ve lived in Wangaratta for 40 years but I am constantly meeting new people. We are lucky to have a number of cafes within 100 metres of our event and I love the opportunity to just sit and chat with other parkrunners. It’s such a positive experience.
I realised at some stage that parkrun had given me the opportunity to show other people that, for many people with cancer, it’s still possible to live a fulfilling and meaningful life. So I decided that for Wangaratta’s 300th parkrun I would try to complete the 5km for the first time, and my story even made the front page of the local paper.
The weather gods did not shine on us that day – in fact it was wet, windy and bitterly cold, and I remember thinking to myself before parkrun that morning ‘what are you doing you silly old twit?!’. But I can honestly say I smiled the entire way as I walked and ran alongside my daughter and son-in-law. Part of dealing with cancer, for me, involved setting goals, and it was wonderful to achieve that one.
The best part was that my story made the front page of the local paper. I’m lucky to be a cancer survivor (I’ve also survived liver cancer since my initial triple whammy!) and I hope that sharing my story can show others with similar experiences that parkrun is a great way to be active and social in a fun and supportive environment – every week!
Has Doug’s story inspired you to give parkrun volunteering at try? If so, we’d love to welcome you!
You can either:
- speak to a volunteer at parkrun (in advance or on the day)
- pop an email to the event (this can be found on the home page of the event’s website)
- reach out using the event’s social media channels.
Want to find out more about volunteering opportunities at parkrun? These short videos showcase some of the many fun and friendly roles available!
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