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It feels badass to lift weights

Jo Long weights









Breast Cancer - Weight Lifting

I am one of those people who have always been sporty. I loved P.E. at school, and this love of exercise has carried me through various sporting endeavours throughout my childhood, teens and beyond.  Exercise made me feel happy, accomplished, and I got a big kick over learning and refining new skills, and also being around people who felt the same. During my PhD I found that a tough gym session could clear my head after a long day at my desk. It has always been my constant. 

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In my mid 20s I found Roller Derby. I was incredibly lucky that I joined a successful team, who sparked my desire to learn new things and improve my skills. In the 9 years I have been a member, we have travelled to America and all over Europe to compete, and currently sit at 54th in the world. This year I was elected as captain for the team, and, prior to Covid-19, had big plans to further improve our rankings and make the cut for the European Cup for a third year running. 

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Over the years I have dabbled in various forms of cross training to complement Roller Derby, and back in 2015 I found a love of Olympic Lifting. It is both physically and mentally demanding and very technical. Not to mention, it feels absolutely badass to lift a bunch of weight above my head. I have taken part in two competitions so far and gained a silver medal in both for my weight category. I’m hoping that when I turn 35 in 2022 to be able to qualify for the Masters championships. 


Unfortunately, not only did Covid hit in 2020, but so did breast cancer. In April I found a lump, and mid-June was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. The two weeks before diagnosis were the hardest – being told it was 50/50 whether it was cancer or not, then being in shock and disbelief ‘but I’m so fit, active and healthy, how could I possibly have cancer’. In July I had surgery and am currently waiting for radiotherapy to begin. After that, I will be starting Tamoxifen for 10 years. 

Physically, I think thanks to being fit and generally well, I pretty much sailed through surgery and recovery. Mentally I have struggled the most, often thinking about what the future will look like and whether I will get back to where I was. Roller Derby has not yet returned thanks to Covid, so I am unable to train with my team. I am lucky to have a fairly extensive home gym, which I am making the most out of, but 9 weeks post-surgery I am only just starting to get back to Olympic lifting, thanks to my excellent physio. Radiotherapy could affect my skin, ribs and lungs, which isn’t ideal for when I return to playing a full contact sport (where we regularly get hit in the ribs), and tamoxifen has all sorts of side effects, but I am particularly worried about the potential joint pain.

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I am trying my hardest to look forward to 2021: radiotherapy will be over, hopefully I will have adjusted to tamoxifen and maybe, just maybe, full contact sport will be able to begin again. 

Jo Long