A half marathon and feeling grateful

There I was at 10am this morning, running along the banks of the River Thames in the freezing cold, trying desperately to focus on something other than 1) just how bitterly cold it was and 2) the residual peripheral neuropathy I have in the balls of my feet and toes that’s a side effect from the chemo I had as part of my breast cancer treatment well over two years ago.

Peripheral neuropathy is a horrible mix of numbness and pins and needles; I’m mostly just vaguely aware of it but it gets considerably worse 1) when I’m running and 2) when it’s cold. It’s worse on my right foot than on my left.

Bit of a double whammy on the foot front, I was thinking as I ran.

I was only a couple of miles into the 2018 Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon and I knew it was going to go badly if I didn’t manage to divert my thinking to something more positive. So I started thinking about all the people who’ve helped and supported me through what I can only call the shitstormy periods of the past two and three quarter years.

Don’t get me wrong, some of that time has been brilliant. In fact, quite a lot of it’s been brilliant, but some of it’s been pretty damn tough. But it would have a lot tougher without the amazing support I’ve had, from many, many different people. Thinking about all that cheered me up no end. I started writing it all down here but it was getting so long that I decided it deserved its own blog post.

So what’s gone down over the past (almost) three years? Diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer (Stage IV is treatable but ultimately terminal) in July 2015, followed by seven months of treatment involving chemo, mastectomy and lymph node removal, and radiotherapy. High risk of recurrence and many, many months post-treatment trying to find a way of transferring my fear of recurrence from the front of my mind to somewhere less harmful. It’s sometimes still an issue, in fact. [The Scottish comedian Billy Connolly helped recently on that front. He’s got Parkinson’s disease and I heard him say not too long ago that his condition is the first thing he thinks about every morning when he wakes up so he makes sure his second thought is something nice. I bear that in mind when I feel that fear of recurrence creeping back.] Then, late last summer, just as I felt I was really moving on, I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Thankfully it was very early stage, but it involved two rounds of surgery to my right calf which amounted to several months of enforced inactivity.

Back to this morning’s run. Having spent an uplifting however long thinking how fortunate I was, I then focused on the fact that I was able to even contemplate doing this half marathon was cause for celebration. The wound from the surgery I had on my calf at the end of November had healed so well that I was able to start running again in mid-January.

There are a lot of people to thank for a lot of things, as you’ll be able to read when I get round to writing them all down. Special thanks, however, goes to my husband Andy, who surpassed himself today – as he has done so on so many occasions over the past few years. Not only did he drive me to Hampton Court Palace this morning at 7.45am, he also came to pick me up at the train station on the way home –  with a flask of steaming hot soup. I can’t describe how welcome that was. To give you some idea of just how cold it was, it took me 20 minutes after I’d finished the half marathon before I had enough feeling in my fingers to be able to use my phone.

Andy would have been to cheer me over the finish line too but I’d said I didn’t want that.

As everyone will know, the brilliant astrophysicist Stephen Hawking died this week at the age of 76. He’d been diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease as a young adult and was told he’d be dead in a couple of years. He’s quoted as saying: “My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.”

I was 52 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My expectations were far from reduced to zero, and not everything since then has been a bonus. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t for Stephen Hawking either after his initial diagnosis. Having run a good part of 13.1 miles this morning contemplating the good things in my life, though, I know where he was coming from.

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4 thoughts on “A half marathon and feeling grateful

  1. Well done Maureen! Amazing achievement and you should be really proud of yourself. Re that peripheral neuropathy, did you ever get prescribed pyridoxine? I had TERRIBLE pain in my feet (burning and barely able to walk some days), numbness and tingling, and just numbness and tingling in my fingers. An oncologist at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital prescribed it and within 3 tablets the pain had reduced by about 80%. It was like a miracle. I’m still on it 10 months later and the numbness is now only about 5% (with no pain at all). It’s basically vitamin B12. Definitely worth a try. X

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    • Thanks so much, Sam. Thankfully most if the time it’s fine. Annoying, but fine. Sounds like you had it really bad. Glad you have it under control. Yes, still chuffed at my half marathon achievement! x

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  2. What a great photo. I see relief, exhaustion, uncomplicated happiness. (I’m probably totally wrong, but…) I imagine that is what you are striving for every day you wake up (the uncomplicated looking forward to another day anyway) and move asap to the second thought. But it is very hard to put oneself in your place, no matter how empathetic you like to think you are. That’s why it’s a constant necessity for you to write, and pleasurable necessity for us to read, your honest, eye opening blog. When I was training for the Moonwalk marathon in support of breast cancer research way back when with Sophie K, we walked to Hampton Court Palace and caught the train back. What a magic day! Probably summertime as I have no memories of frozen fingers and our biggest hurdle was choosing our lunch venue but it would be nice to think that some of the sponsorship money raised by such events has gone/will go towards pushing out the treatments and survival rates of breast cancer sufferers. We cannot afford to get blase about this particular necessity – to raise funds and keep cancer in the forefront of philanthropists’ and charity donors’ minds.

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