TO MAKE THE MOST OF MY SECOND CHANCE
‘ Last year, I was training relentlessly for sub-3:15 at London. This year, just finishing will be enough, as I struggle to adjust to my new body, life and self. In March 2016, I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of oesophageal cancer. It most commonly affects older people, and those who smoke or drink, not a fit 40-year-old fell runner who has a couple of glasses of wine a week and has never smoked.
It started with heartburn, indigestion and difficulty swallowing. And I knew my race results weren’t reflecting my training. I was prescribed an indigestion remedy and continued training, working and doing everything a mum of a young child does, but the symptoms worsened. Within weeks, I could only consume liquid foods and I returned to the doctors to be referred for further tests. A barium swallow identified a “large obstruction”. Just days away from my daughter’s fourth birthday, it was confirmed I had oesophageal cancer.
I opted for the most aggressive treatment possible: chemotherapy, radiotherapy, then surgery. Throughout chemo and radiotherapy I managed to walk, jog or cycle most days. Moving and being outside gave me calm, perspective, space, and physical and mental strength.
I had the oesophagostomy in September. The first few weeks afterwards passed in a wave of morphine, debilitating cramps, sleep and uncertainty. When the majority of the 15 tubes I was hooked up to were removed, I started to shuffle around in my pyjamas, compression socks and slippers.
Three months postsurgery, I began jogging for a minute or two with a walk in-between and built from there. Pounding the roads has given me the chance to reflect on 2016 and the journey that I am still on. One thing I’ve learned is that our sport runs so much deeper than race results.
Running the London Marathon is a way of showing I intend to keep living this life to the full and make the very most of my second chance at it. I won’t be looking at my watch constantly or pacing to achieve a time, but I will be thinking about what challenges other runners have gone through, and their reasons for being there. Hopefully, reaching the finish line will give us all a greater sense of meaning and the strength to move on.’