Suc­cess story

Run­ner Chantele Rash­brook, 47, com­pleted the Lon­don Marathon a year af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with secondary breast can­cer

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‘I fought breast can­cer to run a marathon!’

‘Get­ting my first breast can­cer di­ag­noses at the age of 41 felt like be­ing hit over the head with a very large bat. I was in to­tal shock – there’s no his­tory of breast can­cer in my fam­ily and I was at my fittest, thanks to reg­u­lar runs with the group I set up in 2010: the Rash­brook Run­ners. Ini­tially, I thought “that’s me done”, but the more I spoke to pro­fes­sion­als, the more op­ti­mistic I be­came. I’m a pos­i­tive per­son any­way and my hus­band, Phil, even more so, which made the di­ag­no­sis eas­ier to han­dle, as did the amaz­ing sup­port I re­ceived from fam­ily and friends. I had a mas­tec­tomy to re­move my right breast, where I’d dis­cov­ered a lump, then six rounds of chemo­ther­apy fol­lowed by ra­dio­ther­apy as well as tak­ing the drugs Her­ceptin and Tamox­ifen.’


‘Fit­ness played a huge role in my re­cov­ery – I don’t think I’d have coped as well with the chemo if I hadn’t stayed ac­tive by run­ning, cy­cling and walk­ing. I’m con­vinced it helped me re­cover a lot quicker and stay much stronger. I’d turn up to meet my run­ning group twice a week as nor­mal and start them off, and on the days be­tween treat­ments that I felt back on top again, I’d even man­age 5K. But I did get frus­trated and up­set when I couldn’t do what I nor­mally could and there were times I felt it wasn’t fair.

‘At one point, I queried whether do­ing too much ex­er­cise would aggravate some­thing in my body and re­lease a chem­i­cal that would make me more at risk of can­cer, but my doc­tors re­as­sured me this was def­i­nitely not the case and ad­vised me to do what I felt I could but also lis­ten to my body and rest when I needed.

‘I had a year in re­mis­sion but, soon af­ter, I found a lump un­der my ear­lobe and dis­cov­ered the can­cer had spread, trav­el­ling to my neck, chest and lungs. It hit me more the se­cond time around; I was stunned as no one had told me it could come back. I had chemo­ther­apy with a dif­fer­ent drug, which wiped me out a lit­tle more, but I still con­tin­ued ex­er­cis­ing. This time, I did a lot more cy­cling, of­ten clock­ing up 25 miles.

‘My phi­los­o­phy has shifted slightly, but I’ve main­tained my pos­i­tive out­look, and good health – both phys­i­cal and men­tal – plays a huge part. My run­ning club has kept me go­ing – they are a great bunch and have been bril­liant. But cru­cially, the need to sur­vive for my chil­dren Char­lie, 19, and Lily, 17 has driven me.

‘The turn­ing point came once I’d fin­ished all my treat­ment, when I be­gan tak­ing a new drug called Kad­cyla. I’m very lucky; it’s worked amaz­ingly well – the can­cer has dis­ap­peared from ev­ery­where apart from a very small area on my lung. I was able to build my fit­ness up be­cause of the drug and, less than a year af­ter I started tak­ing it, I ran the Lon­don Marathon in four hours, 48 min­utes. I was chuffed with my time and the money I raised for Breast Can­cer Now – the char­ity that in­spired and mo­ti­vated me train for the event. Since then, I’ve done two sprint triathlons – both this year. The dis­tances are just right for me at the mo­ment and I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced my first open-wa­ter swim, round the moat of a cas­tle, which I re­ally en­joyed.’


‘Most weeks, as well as run­ning up to four times, I do up to six pump, Spin and step classes. I en­joy the in­ten­sity of the ex­er­cise and find it en­er­gises me. To fuel my­self, I eat healthily and try to avoid sugar – I’ve read a lot about the link be­tween can­cer and sugar. That said, I still eat cake, but my body doesn’t like sweet food the way it used to. I try to give my body and mind a break by tak­ing the dog for a walk first thing in the morn­ing, or flop­ping in front of the TV. Some­times, I have reiki heal­ing treat­ments. It can be emo­tional, but it’s re­lax­ing and a bril­liant stress re­lief.

‘I won’t deny that run­ning is harder now – I’m not as quick and fit as I used to be and I don’t seem to have the stamina or the speed I once had – but I don’t run to beat my per­sonal best: the fact that I’m do­ing it is an achieve­ment.’

‘I feel pos­i­tive about my fu­ture – my lifestyle, my med­i­ca­tion, and my doc­tors’

Chantele cel­e­brates with her par­ents af­ter a race er canc r bette for ning paig Cam t men treat

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