Alison Walters struggled to return to everyday life after her cancer diagnosis and surgery.
Then she came across 5k Your Way and parkrun, both of which she credits in helping her to find her feet again.
I was diagnosed with a sarcoma, a rare form of cancer of the connective tissue, in 2018. I had life-saving surgery in 2019 that included the removal of a two stone tumour, my left kidney and spleen and part of my pancreas and colon. After the surgery my mental health was poor, I struggled to return to everyday life having been so unwell before the surgery. I also struggled to come to terms with what I had been through and the impact of being away from my son for the month I was in hospital.
My son was only four years old at the time and he also found it difficult, missing me while I was away and worrying about what was happening, which he did not really understand. I joined support groups but found that these did not help as I found myself focusing on the cancer and all that had been taken away from me.
I was lucky enough to see an advert on social media for 5k Your Way, a group that meet up on the last Saturday of every month to join the local parkrun event. I had never heard of parkrun before. I hadn’t run as an adult and had not exercised at all for many years. I had seen a large group of people walking, jogging and running through Walsall Arboretum on Saturday mornings, but had no idea who they were or what they were doing there!
I joined parkrun online as the social media page advised, and later that week anxiously approached the 5k Your Way team at Walsall Arboretum parkrun for their first ever session. I met some amazing and inspiring people, many of whom I now consider to be friends. The group allowed me to talk about my experiences in a way that was supportive, and the advice I was given allowed me to feel hope for the first time since I had completed my treatment. The focus on physical activity and humour helped me through this terrible period, and I consider the group to have saved my life.
Since that first Saturday, I have been a regular at Walsall Arboretum parkrun, my home parkrun event. I enjoyed the supportive, inclusive atmosphere and trying to beat my personal best each week gave me a positive focus before I felt well enough to return to work in May 2019. I had expected the parkrunners to be serious people who would not welcome someone like me, a woman in her 40s who was a bit of stranger to keeping fit and healthy. I could not have been more surprised as week after week I was welcomed by everyone and applauded for doing my best.
I have also very much enjoyed volunteering, as a tail walker, handing out finish tokens and scanning barcodes, supporting those parkrunners who have, in turn, enthused and supported me.
I would encourage anyone to give parkrun a go, and anyone who has been impacted by cancer to consider approaching the 5k Your Way organisation. I was so nervous before I went along to the parkrun event that first time, it took me a while and some deep breathing before I got the nerve up to approach the gathering point! Attending either parkrun or 5k Your Way is a fantastically supportive experience. The help and advice I have been given by the 5k Your Way group has been invaluable.
The group have all been through challenging times and understand what people who have been diagnosed with cancer and their loved ones are going through and continue to experience. I would recommend anyone to take that first step and reach out to a group local to you.
I continue to parkrun at my own pace, and regularly meet up with the 5k Your Way team, the monthly walks with the group are a particular highlight for me. I am proud to wear my 5k Your Way hoodie and remind people that the best project you will ever work on is you!
I have also taken on some longer distances, doing several 10k races, including one with my sister that was particularly special to me as she was the most supportive person while I was going through treatment. The pride I feel in getting around a course is amazing and I know that this is a great example to my son, showing him that experiencing difficult circumstances doesn’t stop you living your life.
I owe all this to 5k Your Way and parkrun.
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