Sally Moore (second from right) was diagnosed with Grade 3, Stage 3 breast cancer in 2012 following almost six years of regular checks. After 13 cancer-related operations over several years, Sally took part in the inaugural Brighouse parkrun in September 2016, and she hasn’t looked back since.
In June 2006 I found a lump in my left breast and after a moment of panic I saw a doctor. It was just a cist, but what it meant was that I was in the system. Over the next five and a half years I continued to find lumps, and each time I got checked out it was all okay.
Then in January 2012 I found another lump. I’d only been seen in November 2011 and everything was fine and I had another appointment booked for April so I did think about not doing anything about it. It’s a good thing that I wasn’t complacent, because this one turned out to be cancer and it was so aggressive that in just two months it was already grade 3 stage 3. If I had left it until my April appointment I wouldn’t be here now.
At the time of diagnosis, I had been trying to get fit for about a year, as I was really sporty as a child. I’d been going to a Marine bootcamp 2-3 times a week and had been improving. Due to my treatment however this didn’t last much longer. Between February and July I had chemotherapy and I could feel the lump decreasing in size, which was a positive mental boost.
A little aside to this is that in 2011 I had applied to be a volunteer for the 2012 London Olympics and been successful so when I received my diagnosis I was devastated that I was probably going to miss out on this. I’m not one for giving up though and so I didn’t tell the Olympic organisers immediately. Instead I managed to do the required training on what I call my good weeks – the third week in my chemo cycle which is when I felt at my best. I managed to complete the training and I did tell the manager at the location I was going to volunteer at Lord’s Cricket Ground supporting the archery and he was brilliantly supportive. The Opening Ceremony was on Friday 27 July and I started my volunteering on the Saturday and finished the following Thursday. To assist me they made little adjustments which meant I could do some of my role sitting down as after six months of treatment I was rather tired. I also had no hair but nobody – official, spectator, Olympian, volunteer or any member of the public – was in the slightest bit bothered. Eeryone was completely supportive.
The following week I went into hospital to have my mastectomy. It’s a strange feeling, voluntarily going to have part of your body removed, but I knew it was the best thing for my overall health to do. I spent the next few days watching the rest of the Olympics from my hospital bed. After recuperating for a few weeks, the next stage of my treatment was 15 treatments of radiotherapy over a few weeks. Following this I went back to work until 25th April 2013 when I then went back into hospital for my second prophylactic mastectomy and double reconstruction. This was a huge operation and I was on the operating table for nine hours and I was off work for another six weeks.
Everything seemed to be going well with my reconstruction until Nov 2013 when I suddenly found I couldn’t breath and I was rushed into hospital to have a seroma removed. A seroma is an accumulation of fluid around the treatment area, more prevalent in people who have had radiotherapy. The only way to remove it was to deconstruct my reconstruction which meant I was left with an empty pocket of skin instead of a breast on my left side (the right was fine). There is still very little understanding about what causes seromas and I was just unfortunate. In order to rebuild my reconstruction over the next four years I had eight further operations, making a grand total of 13 cancer-related operations since diagnosis. Although I’m still on a daily tablet and I’ll be on this for another four and a half years, I was signed off by my oncologist in Nov 17 which was quite a momentous day.
Clearly over this time with 13 general anaesthetics my fitness suffered greatly and although I was trying to eat more healthily my weight did increase. I’d heard about parkrun through a friend and even volunteered at Halifax parkrun on one occasion. Then I heard that Brighouse parkrun was starting in September 2016 so I went along and really discovered just how unfit I really was. I completed my first parkrun in 44:20, and although I struggled to jog more than a few hundred metres at a time, I decided that this would be a good benchmark for me to use, and the atmosphere and support that everyone was given was just amazing. So I made a commitment to myself that I would continue to go as often as I could.
Week after week I went to parkrun and dependent on the conditions I set myself little targets, be that, getting to X tree or X bench before walking, to completing a full lap (Brighouse is three laps) or using someone a few metres ahead of me to help me pace myself or motivate me to try to overtake them – I’m competitive by nature so this helps me to keep going! One of the regular people I used as a pacemaker was Sheila Smith – she always wore a bright pink headband so was easy to spot and despite being in an older age category Sheila finished ahead of me every week by 40-50 metres until Brighouse’s first anniversary run. I gave it everything and finished ahead by one second, and got a PB too. Sheila has since become a great friend.
I’ve gradually lowered my PB since then and that is also a result of some of the core committee members setting up a local running club – the Brighouse Bumble Bees – on the back of the success of Brighouse parkrun. Three of the key core team – Jude Faulkner, Bev Green and Sandra Haley are incredibly inspirational and supportive women – every week they volunteer at parkrun doing everything from Run Director to Tail Walker and are consistently screaming out (in the nicest possible way!) amazing support for every single walker and runner. They get to know people, everyone is treated as an individual with respect. They get to know people’s stories, which helps them relate and support even more – I truly wouldn’t have stuck with parkrun or joined the Bees without them.
On 14 April this year I completed my 50th parkrun and due to running with the Bumble Bees, there were a lot of runners who knew about it. On the day my Bee friends brought a massive ‘50’ age badge which I had to wear and a ‘50’ helium balloon which they insisted I run with. As with every week, mine and others’ milestones were celebrated by all parkrunners before we set off. To my great surprise and probably because almost every person who went past me or whom I passed congratulated me and lifted my spirits, I actually ended up getting another PB which was a brilliant feeling to achieve this on a milestone run. My PB is now 32.33 – this means I’ve taken 11 mins 47 secs off my original time which is more than 25% off my original time.
At school I was very sporty but never really a runner, and I still don’t consider myself a runner, but I do feel part of a great community both through parkrun and the Bees. Through parkrun I’ve met some truly fabulous people who, despite their own struggles return week after week to support, motivate and inspire friends and strangers alike who then become friends. I’ve encouraged many of my friends to join parkrun and those who have, have loved it and continue to participate, and I would encourage anyone to join in as it does give you an aim and a great sense of achievement.
I spent six weeks in Australia between September and November 2017 and while I was there I took part in St Peters parkrun’s 300th event and the sense of community and support was just as strong there too.
For me, there are two key points I’d like to get across in this blog. Firstly, if you find a lump, do something about it – don’t ignore it as it could cost you your life. And secondly, anyone can participate in parkrun and can really benefit from it physically and mentally through the friendships that you develop. If I can do it after over five years of treatment, everyone can.
On Saturday we welcomed back Cape Pembroke Lighthouse parkrun, in the Falkland Islands, and all three events in Australia’s Northern Territory, representing another positive moment in the gradual return of parkrun events around the world. It was great to see the unofficial parkrun podcast, With Me Now, live-streaming from Nightcliff and Palmerston parkruns. If…
There are just a few days to go before this Saturday’s reopening of Cape Pembroke Lighthouse parkrun on the Falkland Islands, as well as all three events in Australia’s Northern Territory. It’s an incredibly exciting time for all of us and I’m sure I can speak on behalf of the entire parkrun family when I…