Three years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I found a lump and went through a couple of weeks of “it’s probably nothing, but let’s just check” before the tests came back. I’d always been a bit active, doing a bit of horse-riding, occasional hill walking and being a constant gym member (although not necessarily always going!). I had my son and meant to get fitter but it’s difficult with a baby to look after and work and everything else that gets in the way. At the time of diagnoses my son was two years old and I was 36 so there was plenty of time to get around to it... at some point.
I found treatment tough. I struggled with lack of energy and having a very active two year at home had to be my focus but I got through chemotherapy, a mastectomy and 5 weeks of radiotherapy.
During treatment I had been gently reminded that my weight wasn’t where it ideally should be. I already knew that, but sometimes it takes a push and getting into the right mind set to actually do something about it. I was told that before I could have reconstructive surgery I needed to lose weight. Fine. How much? Oh, wow – that much! So, I needed a plan.
I spoke to my GP who encouraged me to go to Slimming World, I found a local Personal Trainer (a lovely lady who I now consider a friend. She made me work hard during those sessions but I looked forward to seeing her and having a catch up as well) and I saw that my local running group was starting a beginners group to help people with Couch to 5k.
The problem with the running group was that it started the week after my radiotherapy finished. I was tired, I was very sore but I knew that if I missed the first week, I might as well not go to any of it. So, I covered up my radiotherapy burnt skin, put a hat on and went to the beginners running club. We were taken on a mile loop and I discovered that a lot of the others were returning to running, they weren’t beginners and certainly hadn’t just bounced out of treatment! I walked a lot. Could I talk when I was running? No. Whatever we did, I was at the back. Everyone was friendly but I was still tired and sore and after a couple of weeks I stopped going.
What I did do was to keep walking to places and just trying to increase my activity levels. I carried on with the personal training sessions and six months later the club ran another beginners group so I went back. I was still at the back. I still walked a lot but less than I had before. I completed the 12 week course and still couldn’t run for a full 5k but I was improving. The group encouraged us to do Park Run as our ‘graduation’. I hadn’t done it before and I was very nervous. Would I be last? Would people laugh at me? Would it take me days to get to the finish? Anyone that has done Park Run knows the answer. No. The leader of our beginners course came round with me and got me through it by encouraging me to the run/walk lampposts (I will forever be so grateful to him!) and I’d done it. The running group gave us a medal, my first medal!
So, I carried on with the personal training sessions and doing Park Run regularly but I STILL couldn’t run 5k and having seen the runners in the main group (I’m not allowed to call them “proper runners” because apparently I’m one too!) I knew that the performance gap was just too big so six months later I joined the next beginners group. I ran for the entire mile in week one, I was SO proud of myself. Was I at the front? No. Was I at the back? No. Interesting. I was improving!
My personal trainer moved away but I carried on with Park Run when I could and I joined the running club (I have a card that calls me an athlete!) and at the next beginners course I helped. I was one of those people that just chatted as they ran round! Maybe I am a “proper runner” after all!
Since then I have completed (maybe not run every step but I have completed!) a 10 mile walk, 5k runs, taken my son on a 5k bubble run, Race for Life 10k and a half marathon. I regularly run and volunteer at Park Run, I have helped at a Slimming World takeover of our local Park Run to help encourage others to participate, I am leading on a Health and Well-being initiative at work, I have lost enough weight to have my reconstructive surgery and have signed up to two more half marathons and who knows what else I’ll feel like doing… I am fitter, I am a healthier size, I am happier, I know that I am setting a fantastic example to my son and that doing all of this gives me a much better chance to be around to watch him grow up.