My name is Ben, I am 35 and I have terminal bowel Cancer. There have been times when things have got on top of me since my Cancer adventure started, but I definitely feel more in control of my life since I started running again. I am planning a fitness challenge, “Ben’s Bowel Movements” running 6 marathons in 6 months. When I decided to undertake this challenge and began telling people of my plans, I had a lot of encouragement and decided to try and turn this into a truly amazing event. I am determined to make this a huge success and any support that can be given is hugely appreciated. I have learned first hand the importance of charity work and really want to give something back while I can.
I started running again in December last year. I refused to let my Cancer and treatment dictate to me the quality of life I could enjoy. Now, running is essential to the balance in my life between treatment and everything else. Running has motivated me to get out of bed and participate in family life. Running has made me realise that, despite terminal Cancer, I’m capable of more. When I was diagnosed I had to suppress my dreams of running a marathon. Chemo and attending hospital appointments become a way of life. I put everything else on hold as I did my best to get through it. Dealing with Cancer and treatment was hard and unlike anything I’d been through. Despite the difficulties I never gave up hope that I would be cured. With that in mind I knuckled down to treatment had two major surgeries to remove the tumours, my wife gave birth to my third beautiful daughter, and I focused on getting better. The fact that I’d been in good shape before I got ill sustained me through the first year of my illness, but I missed dearly the freedom that running gave me. I loved lacing my shoes and heading out for hours, running wherever the whim took me. It was the perfect relief from a stressful day at work.
Running was the furthest thing from my mind as my young family and I faced the challenge of simply coping with treatment and getting through each day. Then came the news that my Cancer was terminal. We went on a couple of holidays with my family and I tried to run a little before I started my new treatment, but it was a difficult time for us all and my heart wasn’t in it. Despite the fact that we had been given a 20-25% chance of success with the new treatment, the regimen worked which gave us all a massive boost.
It felt like I’d been given a second chance and I started running again. I was determined to make the most of my time and saw running as the key to normalising my life. I was suddenly let loose to run again and it felt wonderful. During the difficult times I had given up on ever running long distances again, so the sense of joy and freedom I felt from being able to head out on the road for hours was massive. My family and friends were surprised at the distances I was running. One week after my first street run I was running ten miles. I continued to add miles to my long run and everything was going well until I picked up bug a few weeks ago. I couldn’t run for a fortnight and my fitness suffered, but I ran ten miles before my chemo on Monday this week, so I’m hopeful I can regain my fitness in time for April 6th and the first of my marathons in Blackpool. Despite the odd set back my family and I have enjoyed many benefits from my starting to run again and not just the obvious ones like my health and fitness. Getting up early to run meant that I was out of bed and back in time for breakfast with my wife and daughters, so I was able to help with the morning routine for the first time in a great while. This meant that I could participate in family life in a way that I’d not done for nearly two years.
I’ve found that life happens whether you are on chemo or not. My treatment cannot cure me and can only keep my Cancer at bay, so I will be receiving treatment as long as it still works. There’s no getting away from the fact that I’ll be pumped full of Cancer fighting, yet toxic drugs on a fortnightly basis for the rest of my life, so I learned to live with chemo. Sure, there were, and indeed are still, times when I feel tired, but the periods of nausea and tiredness pass and my wife and I have a mantra which she repeats to me when I’m receiving treatment “you won’t feel this way for long, you’ll be back on the street soon”. Our Oncologist is throwing everything at me. He’s giving me double doses of my drugs, because he’s knows I’m resilient and young and running is the proof that I’m tough and I can cope with it all. When I go for treatment it is a day long endurance event and like the chemo that fellow patients have it’s quite a rotten, tiring and nauseating experience. Knowing that I’ll be able to get out and pound the streets a few days later is a great comfort. I think it’s fair to say that in many ways running saved my life and gave me chance to start living again. Now, thanks to running my life doesn’t feel too dissimilar to the way it was before my diagnosis, except now I’m retired and have the time to spend with family and to run as far as I want. Running has given me the chance to enjoy my family again!!
I want to show my three young daughters (they are 9, 4 and 18 months) that my positive spirit has endured, that I haven’t merely succumbed to Cancer and I won’t let illness get in the way of living my life and realising my dreams. If anything happens to me, I hope the example of completing a fitness challenge, like Ben’s Bowel Movements, will impress upon my daughters the importance of fitness, particularly running. I might not be around to take them running, but they’ll be in no doubt as to the importance it had in my life and even though my Cancer was terminal I started running again, if only for a while. We’ll never stop fighting and living life and running is key to my resistance.
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