Andy has been a parkrunner for many years, and his cancer diagnosis four years ago did not stop him from parkrunning. Here is his story.
My name is Andy and I’ve been an avid parkrunner for over nine years in which time I have completed 246 parkruns at 38 locations and volunteered on 330 occasions covering most roles. I’m currently a parkrun Event Ambassador in the East Midlands and most recently supported the start up of Ashbourne parkrun. My home event is the wonderful Poolsbrook parkrun near Chesterfield.
Over the years, I have included parkrun in my toolkit for staying physically and mentally fit and healthy. We all know the benefits of exercise and socialising, and who doesn’t enjoy a nice shot of endorphins now and then? My coping toolkit may have changed over this period but parkrun has always been a vital part of it and never more so than today.
For the last four years I have had a battle with prostate cancer and had most forms of treatment aimed at a cure. During this period I used parkrun to recover from surgery, to help me whilst having radiotherapy and to help me to keep fit and maintain a reasonable level of fitness whilst having hormone therapy. However, recently I was informed that my cancer had metastasised and I now have incurable advanced prostate cancer – I’m not going to get better.
I started on a lifelong course of hormone therapy immediately with options given for additional treatments to help slow down the growth and spread of cancer. I chose chemotherapy with almost no hesitation, the rationale being that I am still relatively fit and healthy at 59-years-old and would be in a better position to deal with this treatment than when my health has deteriorated.
I’m currently halfway through my course of chemo which will finish at the end of August/start of September. Initially, my energy levels took a battering, I felt extremely fatigued a lot of the time, and my muscles felt weak (not helped by the hormone therapy).
Chemotherapy significantly affects your immune system, so whilst others were relaxing their approach to social distancing, mask wearing etc I have had to take even greater care. My one exception to mostly staying at home (including for work) has been parkrun as I have felt safer seeing people outside, especially when they knew my circumstances and kept a reasonable distance form me whilst chatting. I’ve also taken part, mainly walking as my energy levels have been low.
Two weeks ago I ran (and walked) a parkrun for the first time since I started chemo. This was at Ashbourne parkrun’s second event, the run was both horrendous (I found it very hard) and awesome (I was so happy to get around) at the same time. Post parkrun I got that much anticipated shot of endorphins and this made me very happy. Last week I managed to run the whole 5k at Ashbourne, much to my own surprise and joy – it looks like I can run again!
Tomorrow I have my third round of chemo, it is most likely that at some time whilst I am having my treatment I will speak to someone about parkrun (I always do) and encouraging them to take part. In fact I have just painted the nails on my left hand with parkrun milestone shirt colours and numbers – this will undoubtedly spark a conversation!
On Saturday, I will be at Poolsbrook parkrun, I hope to run, but will accept that I may have to walk or volunteer or perhaps just watch and cheer on the Poolsbrook parkrun family – whatever happens, it will make me happier, there is no doubt about that. On Sunday I will volunteer at Staveley junior parkrun, my exact involvement will depend on how well I feel – but I know for a fact that if I go and I volunteer it will improve my mood and help to brighten my day.
Incidentally, my other coping mechanisms (though any difficulty) include reading (a lot), staying busy with work (which I enjoy), doing various forms of art, meditation and mindfulness and metal detecting. I usually combine these activities the best I can to keep me physically active and mentally happy/relaxed.
Recently I’ve been doing a parkrun and then following this with a couple of hours of metal detecting (I like to give finds to the landowner rather than keep them for myself). I’m hoping to do some parkrun tourism again soon and if possible to combine this with some detecting – so if you know anyone who owns or works on a farm which isn’t too far from a parkrun (and they wouldn’t mind me detecting on their land) please let me know – you’d be making this parkrunner very happy.
To repeat a well known and well proven piece of knowledge – parkrun is good for you physically and perhaps even better for you mentally. Add it to your coping toolkit and encourage others to give it a go too!
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