This month is the second birthday of the 5K Your Way initiative – a project which aims to promote participation in parkrun across the UK and Ireland by those living with, and impacted by, cancer.
Dr Lizzie Paddock, a 5K Your Way Regional Champion and Ambassador, explains how and why the project was born and the incredible impact it is having.
On a sunny Saturday morning in June 2018 we all arrived early for the first ‘5K Your Way’ meet up. Would people come? Would people continue to join us each month?
I am certain we wouldn’t have believed you if you told us two years later we would be organising 5K Your Way at 56 parkruns and welcoming over 600 people each month. 5K Your Way is a community based initiative for those living with or beyond cancer, their friends and family, and oncology healthcare professionals to come together to exercise and socialise away from the hospital environment.
We are a support group with a difference, a run and walking club with a difference, a social opportunity with a difference, a coffee morning with a difference.
So what makes 5K Your Way so special? Well to answer this, I want to start where every cancer patient’s story starts…hearing the words ‘you have cancer’. Sadly 1 in 3 of us will hear this, and it can feel in that moment that shock waves ripple through all areas of your life – your past stresses, the stress you have encountered pre-diagnosis and those to come with this diagnosis. These may include uncertainty about the future, changes in body image, changes in finance/work, relationship difficulties, and loss of independence.
So how does 5K Your Way fit with this? Completing a 5km itself is a significant achievement, even more so when you consider what one of our participants may be encountering in their ‘jar’. 5K Your Way can be whatever you want it to be, whether it’s a walk, a jog, a leisurely chat with a friend, a time to cheer on others, or just skipping straight to the coffee and chat. Whatever your reason just come along and have fun! This doesn’t mean that nobody strives to improve their time each month. 5K Your Way is whatever you want it to be.
I feel very privileged to be the ambassador of the Nottingham group for the past two years. Following my diagnosis in 2017, aged 26 I realised how important exercise is for physical and emotional well-being during and post treatment. When I was asked by 5K Your Way co-founder and oncology consultant, Dr Lucy Gossage, to be the Ambassador I attempted a 1km training run…more like a stop, start, ‘I can’t do this’ plod.
I have since completed a half marathon, and continue to run 2-3 times a week. If I am feeling anxious about an upcoming appointment or scan, I get my trainers on and head out to clear my mind or contact a fellow 5K Your Way-er!
It was amazing to see such a large group attending each month, and receiving such a welcome from the volunteer team and fellow parkrunners. I am lucky to be in a role where I meet with an inspiring group each month; we all come together to support one another. I will certainly never forget the moment I ran past a friend’s oncologist going up a hill!
So one last well done to everybody for supporting 5K Your Way – a place where you’ll find a welcoming community whilst appreciating how physical activity and support can help during and after cancer treatment. Everyone needs to experience the benefits from the 5K Your Way ‘jar’. Here’s to the walkers, runners, the joggers, the ‘I can’t believe I’m here again’ers, to the volunteers and the supporters…I am ready for the day we can all be together, and continue all the fun we have!
‘When I’m running I don’t think about the cancer. It’s a way to escape from many of the things that have been taken away from me. I feel like my body is mine when I put it to work. I can’t plan long term anymore. But 5K Your Way gives me something positive that’s nothing to do with cancer, to work towards each month. It gives me some control over my body again’.
Sue, Nottingham 5K Your Way
‘Going along to 5K Your Way has been so beneficial to me since losing my mum to cancer, and seeing a friend receive chemotherapy last year.’
Will, Nottingham 5K Your Way
‘I enjoy the monthly 5K Your Way events as I find the experience inspiring. Meeting those that have gone or are going through cancer treatment, and seeing the determination from them is truly amazing. It is lovely meeting such a great group of people!’
Boris, Pharamacist Nottingham City Hospital
‘5K Your Way and the people I’ve met there have been a huge support in helping me keep active with cancer. I’m so grateful for those who continue to motivate and inspire – keeping me going on the tough days and celebrating the good ones!’
Emma, Nottingham 5K Your Way
Dr Lizzie Paddock is a 30 year old forensic psychologist from Nottingham. She is extremely passionate about supporting those in crisis and is committed to challenging stigma and promoting compassion, support and empathy. She has been Nottingham’s 5K Your Way ambassador since it began in June 2018, and is now also the Lead Safeguarding Officer and East Midlands Regional Champion. Lizzie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017, and had three surgeries and chemotherapy.
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