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I was 50 in March and I had lots of running planned this year to celebrate – marathons in Palestine and London, and a 50k coastal race in the autumn with the Bath Two Tunnels marathon as preparation. Instead I tripped during my last long run before Palestine and ended up with a fantastic black eye and a badly bruised knee which ruled me out of the first two races. And now I have been diagnosed with breast cancer and I am heading into six rounds of chemo with surgery in the autumn.

I can’t claim to have any profound or original thoughts but this is where I am with it at the moment.

Life goes on. The day after I found out I had cancer, I went to the theatre with my friend Letty for a belated birthday treat. I told her over supper and cried, but then we had a wonderful evening together, with fab food, conversation and the discovery of Hampstead Theatre. I feel like cancer will dominate my life for a while but I don’t want to be defined by it or reduced to it – it’s not the only thing that’s going on in my life, or in the lives of those I love.

I’ve set myself lots of physical challenges over the last few years – triathlons, marathons, coast-to-coast cycle rides, the Dunwich Dynamo – and my body has carried me through them all. I have loved going beyond what I thought I could do, and discovering what I am physically and mentally capable of. This is a new physical challenge and not one I would ever have chosen. And it’s not going to be some great fitness adventure – it’s going to be shit. But I hope my body, mind and spirit will serve me well and carry me through. I was among the many people who defaced the ridiculous Protein World ads on the tube, and I wrote the one at the top of this post just after I got the diagnosis. Actually, I don’t know that I am ready for this – how can you be? – but being physically fit and being surrounded by my amazing family and friends will stand me in good stead. And it underlines for me how the message of those adverts is so pernicious; what my body looks like over the next few months is going to be the least significant thing about it.

Instead of running the marathon in Palestine, I ran the 10k and it was delightful. Most of the runners are local people and for many of them, it’s their first race. There is such a celebratory and bold feeling to it.  I started the race with Marwan and his son (see below) and took photos as I ran. I was there when the rest of my group finished their races to cheer them home and take more photos of them finishing. I didn’t get to do what I wanted, but the alternative was great. I hope that over the next few months I will discover the delights of things I would have missed if my original plans had worked out.

Marwan

22 thoughts on “Not what I had planned

  1. Jenny you continue to inspire me, you have inspired me since I have first knew you when I was 17 and you started running Bath YFC with Jonny. I love your passion for life. Thank you for your words and honesty. Lots of love

  2. Jenny, thank you for writing this with such honesty and courage. So very sure you will take those strengths with you into this next fight. Sending you very much love, prayers and hope. Bx

  3. Jenny, I’m so sorry to hear this. You will be in my prayers over the next few weeks and months. Thank you for your honesty and being willing to share this with us, you’re already inspiring others and I know you will continue to do so throughout this journey. Sending much love to you and your family. x

  4. Jenny, you are one of the strongest and most determined people I know, and your choices to show up, be vulnerable and seek beauty in every day life inspires me. Thank you for all you share and I hope we can share back as you go through your treatment: prayers for you…

  5. Oh Jenny! Sometimes just being human and taking what life throws at you in your stride is what makes a person extraordinary. Thanks for this beautifully written, honest piece.

  6. The way you write already demonstrates that you will not be defined or reduced by the news of the diagnosis – and you will be wonderfully human

  7. One thing that clearly identifies you, is your positive view of life, My big hearted friend always there to help others and care about them 🙂 – local running club, community, Palestine etc
    You are inspirational to many of us and surely you will overcome it
    Best wishes and we Love you 🙂

  8. Hi Jenny Life has a habit of throwing stuff at us doesn’t it? Will be thinking and praying for you in the months ahead as you face a new challenge. Paul

  9. I’m so sorry to hear this Jenny. And inspired that you are looking forward with some positivity, knowing the road ahead will be difficult at times. You are truly an amazing woman, and I hope we can all be amazing too in support for you. All love and prayers x

  10. Dear Jen, what a shock to hear this, but you are so right, you are more than cancer alone and although it will dominate the next months in all its ugliness we hope and pray you will come through this as strong and beautiful as ever! Wishing you strength, and laughter in the midst of it all! Our prayers are with you!!! Much love xx

  11. My wonderful, wonderful, brilliant, beautiful, funny, thoughtful, clever, inspiring, mad and awesome friend!
    You accept me and loved me through everything I go through in life.
    You could never be reduced by anything… Not even this.
    You are in my heart always. Always loved. Always looked up to. You are beautiful through and through and nothing will change that.
    You even gifted me the best godson in the world! The joy of which is constantly in my life.
    I hope these hard few months ahead will bring you some amazing surprises. Unexpected joys. A renewed sense of the smaller things (babies included of course).
    I love you.
    j xxx

  12. Inspirational…. like you say a physical challenge that you wouldn’t have chosen but one I am sure will bring you unexpected rewards, giggles and achievements.
    Love and prayers for your race ahead
    x

  13. Hey Jenny,

    Emmanuel! You are a woman of great strength, emotional, mental,spiritual and … yes, physical. I appreciate your pragmatic optimism. One would be a fool not to take this seriously, but I know first hand that not giving into fear has tremendous power to alleviate so much of the pressure that otherwise floods in.

    I will be praying for you in this, the race of your life, but I also know that your capacity for courage and faith will stand you in very good stead.

    Bless you big time, my friend.

  14. Pingback: Friday Links | Nic Dempsey

  15. Hi Jenni. I’ve just seen your blog. What a blow. Can I just say that your photos of the Palestine marathon really moved me and Sarah Rosea and I have been plotting to do the half marathon. I hope we can run it together. Much love Rebecca Rumsey

  16. Jen,

    Just don’t know what to write. You’ve been in my thoughts every day since we heard the news.
    Just want you to know that at least. Stay in touch and if there is anything we can do let us know. We love you and are thinking of you and yours.

    Aad Vermeyden
    President Blueprint Agencies Inc.
    10 Scott Ave, Paris ON N3L 3R1
    aad@blueprintagencies.com
    Office: (519) 442-1242 ext. 221
    Cell: (519) 717-1570

  17. Jenny – really sorry to hear this news and praying that you’ll kick cancer’s butt. I know that so much of it is out of your control, but I am in admiration of that which you do control – your graceful response, and the fact that bodies are so much more than what they look like. I’m praying for you as you dialogue with your body over the next few months, and adjust to a different path to the one you’d planned (this last phrase is a big fat euphemism for something altogether shitty…)
    I know we don’t know each other all that well, but I just wanted to say that I respect and admire you and your work, and I’m praying for you as you embark upon this challenge.
    Also – my friend Tara Owens has written a book called ‘Embracing the Body’ which talks about the theology and spirituality of the body in general (not body image but how we relate to our bodies) – I guess this will either be a potentially very attractive read or very repugnant option at this point in time – I just put it out there if it’s something that might interest you.
    With love and prayers x

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