At 26, my right leg was amputated above the knee. I had bone cancer and chemotherapy hadn’t worked; the tumour had grown and taken over not just my knee, but surrounding tissue and blood vessels too. Drastic surgery was needed to try and save my life. And that – I thought at the time – was the end of my sporting life. There would be no more dance classes, no more horse riding, no more hiking.
And for the next seven years, I didn’t do any exercise. I was too busy trying to get back to normality – walking with a prosthetic limb, and working, and starting a family. But sport – which had once played an important part in my life – was missing, and I felt its absence keenly. I craved the adrenaline rush of a cross-country gallop or the salsa beat of a nightclub, but told myself those sensations were gone forever.
I was the girl at school who avoided PE and games. During my 20 years of training to become a breast surgeon, I would join a gym every time I moved hospital and never go. I only started cycling when my husband bought a bike and did my first triathlon at the age of 40. Nine months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I wanted to carry on training during chemotherapy but couldn’t find any information and my doctors didn’t mention it. I found fellow athletes on Twitter who encouraged me to keep exercising, and I ran, swam and cycled during my chemo good weeks – very, very slowly, mind you. I even persuaded my local club to let me enter their pool-based sprint tri halfway thru chemo, after promising that I would be sensible. I was one of the last to finish, but that didn’t matter. The sense of achievement was amazing.
Having chemo? Fancy a run?
For many of us, the answer is a firm “no!”, but in our latest blog, Alison fills us in on how her approach to running and cycling has helped her to cope with her treatment for breast cancer, and we think there’s a lot of wisdom in her approach to breaking things down into manageable chunks. Take a read, let us know what you think – and please do share!
Keeping fit and being a healthy weight have been important to me most of my adult life. As a child and in my teens I was hopeless at all sports (always one of the last to be picked for any team), but I spent hours doing ballet and tap, which kept me fit, flexible and gave me an appreciation of what my body could do. I wasn’t an especially good dancer, but I loved it.