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.