This time last year I was running parkrun as part of the training for my first marathon. I was happy, carefree and enjoying my weekend runs. A few weeks later I received the devastating news that I had breast cancer.
Recalling the days after my diagnosis I was shocked and frightened to learn of the gruelling treatment I would undergo over the next seven months. I had to have two operations, one to remove a lump on my breast and further surgery to remove the lymph nodes under my arm. The next stage would be six cycles of chemotherapy and finally twenty sessions of radiotherapy. Although family and friends were supportive, initially they were thinking that I would probably stop running and possibly give it up considering what I would go through in the coming months.
However, during the first few cycles of chemo I was encouraged by the oncologist team to keep fit. Running in moderation is considered a good form of exercise, aiding recovery and very good for the mind. I believe the worst part of my illness was losing my hair; it was difficult to keep positive and not hide away. parkrun has been the perfect activity to keep me connected with my running buddies, I can do a gentle jog at my own pace and forget my troubles. It also feels good to get out on a Saturday morning and not stress about how I look, especially during treatment. I am determined to keep going and run back to good health.
Nearly one year on and my treatment is behind me, I hope to complete my training and take part in this year’s Belfast City Marathon. parkrun is part of my life and my training, my running buddies have been at my side and the support from the community is the best ever. I don’t look back but look forward, life is good.
For those who are going through a crisis or who have a lot of stress in their life, try running, it helps. Start jogging short distances over the weeks by running slowly to build up to a steady pace, you will feel good that you have achieved something. We all mark many milestones in our lives, such as birthdays and anniversaries, setting aside this does not mean I have to go back to a day when I was first diagnosed with cancer and a sad time in my life. Instead, it is the date when I will celebrate the strength I never knew I had, the endurance I only dreamed of prior to treatment, and the road to recovery through running.
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