What an adventure, but now what have I let myself in for?

Been a while since I started writing this blog and I’m about to tackle my next big fitness challenge, so it felt like the right time for a bit of a recap. As many of you know I have been battling bowel cancer for more than three years. During this time my family and I have been through a lot. I’ve had two major surgeries and almost 60 fortnightly doses of chemo. We’ve certainly had our fair share of ups and downs, but this hasn’t been a depressing or hopeless time. We’ve always done our best to stay positive and fill our lives with happiness.

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I love my family. My wife and daughters give me strength and make me smile.

Two years ago I was given a terminal prognosis. My life was turned completely upside down. Life can be cruel sometimes and in an instant all my hopes for the future evaporated. My wife and children are my life, so being told I wouldn’t have the long and happy marriage I yearned for or the joy of seeing my beautiful girls blossom into young women and one day have families of their own was heartbreaking.

I adore my girls!

I adore my girls!

But I still wanted to achieve something with my life. Up to that point, the first two years of my cancer adventure, it felt like I’d let cancer take the lead. I didn’t want cancer to define me any longer, so despite my illness I pushed myself to start running again. I desperately wanted my life to mean something and running 6 marathons in 6 months seemed like a great way to start. I couldn’t stop at 6 marathons and I have now run 17 marathons over the last 17 months. Along with my friends and family, and thanks to the generous donations of lots and lots of people, I’ve raised more than £30,000 for cancer charities. An amazing amount of money and far beyond even our wildest dreams. When we started we’d hoped only to a fraction of that.

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Winning the Manchester Evening News competition to start the final wave of the Great Manchester Run and meet Paula Radcliffe was an incredible honour, one of the greatest things I’ve done. I feel very fortunate to have had opportunities like this.

The past year or so has been wonderful. We’ve done some amazing things and met some fantastic people. As well as raising money I had also set out to promote awareness of bowel cancer symptoms and hopefully make my family proud. With any luck I’ve managed to do some or all of these, but one thing I hadn’t planned was the effect all this exercise has had on my health. It sounds silly now, but I wasn’t really thinking about my health when I started running marathons. I quickly noticed how exercise helped me psychologically and lifted my mood (endorphins are awesome). After a while I also started to see that exercise helped me tolerate chemo and fight cancer too. The fitter I am, the better I can tolerate chemo and there’s also research to suggest that regular exercise can stop cancer growing or spreading. My oncologist believes my fitness helps me fight cancer too, which is fantastic.

I love being able to get out in the fresh air. I know how lucky I am. Many people in my situation are sadly unable to be active.

I love being able to get out in the fresh air. I know how lucky I am. Many people in my situation are sadly unable to be active.

Fundraising and fitness challenges were a remote prospect when I was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in March 2012. It came as a huge shock to me and my young family, but it galvanised us and we remained positive, even when I was given my terminal prognosis almost a year later in February 2013.

Picture with my daughters Skye and Isobel just after my bowel surgery

With my daughters Skye and Isobel just after my bowel surgery in March 2012. I hadn’t realised at the time just how thin I’d become.

Our wonderful Oncology team at the Rosemere Cancer Centre put me on a new treatment which fortunately started working and my health began to improve. I started running again and was determined to try and help the charites that had support my family and I during my cancer adventure.

Louise and I with The Indian Uncle I Never Knew I Had (aka our Oncologist)

Louise and I with The Indian Uncle I Never Knew I Had (aka our wonderful Oncologist)

On Sunday 2nd August I completed my 17th Marathon in 17th months over the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. I still love running, but the time is right to mix it up a little. So I’m planning to walk/run the National 3 Peaks in September and rather than drive I will be cycling the 450 miles between them instead.

A very wet, but awesome day running the Yorkshire Three Peaks. It was very tough, but I loved every minute!

A very wet, but awesome day running the Yorkshire Three Peaks. It was very tough, but I loved every minute!

But it doesn’t stop there. After I’ve finished my 10 days of cycling and walking I’m tackling my first Tough Mudder in Cheshire the day after. I can’t wait! This is something I have been planning for a long time. Training for it and preparing between chemo treatments is hard. This is certainly a huge challenge to take on and the biggest I’ve taken on so far. 11 straight days of activity is going to be gruelling, but I’m determined to do it! I want to carry on challenging my mind and body and redefining what I can expect from life and what it means to live with terminal cancer.

I've loved the cycle training, including this ride in the Lakes.

I’ve loved the cycle training, including this ride in the Lakes.

I’m raising money for three amazing cancer charities. Mummy’s Star, an incredible charity, supporting women going through cancer during pregnancy.

With Steve Marsden, one of the Mummy's Star trustees, during the Mummy's Star Three Peaks day

With Steve Marsden, one of the Mummy’s Star trustees, during the Mummy’s Star Three Peaks day

Beating Bowel Cancer campaign to raise awareness of bowel cancer and have supported me and my family during our cancer adventure.

Beating Bowel Cancer have been a great support to us all. We were bowled over to be given an Achievement Award to celebrate the fundraising work we've done over the last year.

Beating Bowel Cancer have been a great support to us all.
In April we were bowled over to be given an Achievement Award to celebrate the fundraising work we’ve done over the last year (Louise and I with patron Freya North and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Sir Christopher Pitchers).

Finally, the Rosemere Cancer Foundation supports the centre where I receive chemo every fortnight and have give me and my fellow patients great support.

I've been receiving treatment at the Rosemere Unit for more than 3 years. I'm very grateful for the care I've received there from the amazing Doctors, Nurses, Staff and Volunteers.

I’ve been receiving treatment at the Rosemere Unit for more than 3 years. I’m very grateful for the care I’ve received there from the amazing Doctors, Nurses, Staff and Volunteers.

As I’ve said, it’s very daunting, but my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude. I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to do this. I wouldn’t be embarking on this challenge without the excellent care I’ve received at the Rosemarie Cancer Centre, based at the Royal Preston Hospital. The doctors, nurses, staff and volunteers there are amazing. Thanks to them and the treatment I receive every fortnight my last scan showed that my cancer hasn’t grown or spread. I finished my most recent course of treatment last week, so I’ve got a scan on Thursday, which sort of puts things in perspective really. It’s a worrying time waiting to find out what my cancer is up to and it reminds me that plenty of people would love the chance to do things like cycling and running, but can’t because of cancer, or other illnesses. I’m doing this challenge for them too!

Any donations are gratefully received. Thanks so much for all your support!!

Ben’s Epic National 3 Peaks Cycle Challenge schedule
1. Thurs 3rd September: Walk Ben Nevis
2. Friday 4th September: Cycle 1 Fort William to Tarbet
3. Saturday 5th September: Cycle 2 Tarbet to Mauchline
4. Sunday 6th September: Cycle 3 Mauchline to Annan
5. Monday 7th September: Cycle 4 Annan to Langdale
6. Tuesday 8th September: Walk Scafell Pike
7. Wednesday 9th September: Cycle 5 Langdale to Preston
8. Thursday 10th September: Cycle 6 Preston to Chester
9. Friday 11th September: Cycle 7 Chester to Llanberis
10. Saturday 12th September: Walk Snowdon
11. Sunday 13th September: North West Tough Mudder

Giving page: virginmoneygiving.com/BensBowelMovements

Facebook: facebook.com/6marathons6months

I’m on twitter too: @ChemoDadRuns

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