On The Wright Stuff today/ RIP Eric

Louise and I are looking forward to appearing on The Wright Stuff later this morning. We’re always grateful for the opportunity to share our story and try and help others by promoting awareness of bowel cancer and symptoms by talking about our experiences of living with the disease. 
Early diagnosis is crucial with all cancers, especially bowel cancer. In 90% of cases patients can be completely cured, if bowel cancer is caught early enough (Read more about bowel cancer symptoms). We hope that by talking about our cancer adventure we might make others aware of the symptoms. If we manage to reach just one family and help stop them going through what we have, then we’ll have succeeded.


We met Matthew Wright at Beating Bowel Cancer’s parliamentary reception in January he’s a lovely bloke who’s done a lot to promote awareness of bowel cancer and symptoms. It’s great to see someone with a public profile using that platform to do so much good. 


But sadly while we are really excited to meet Matthew again and go on his show it’s going to be quite a bitter sweet experience for us. 


The same afternoon we met Matthew in January we we also met a lovely couple Eric, a fellow bowel cancer patient, and his wife Jean. Eric and I bonded over running and our experiences of bowel cancer. At the time Eric’s disease was advanced, but his spirit was undulled and he was just so positive. Eric inspired me with tales of his running adventures. He was unable to run himself, so in April I dedicated the three marathons I ran to him. I also wanted to run the Snowdonia Marathon this year for him. Eric took part in the race years ago and talked enthusiastically about it. Unfortunately, cancer intervened and I had surgery instead. 


We kept in touch and he started a new treatment, which seemed to work for a while. He battled bravely for months and even as his health began to deteriorate his positivity held strong and he enjoyed a lovely early Christmas with his family. He sadly passed away last month. Jean had messaged me to give him a call, but I didn’t get there in time. Cancer is cruel! I’ll miss him loads. 


God bless you Eric. If I run one marathon next year I hope it’s Snowdonia. You provided such a great example to me and should my health fail I hope I’m as positive and dignified as you buddy.

Joy…

Wrote this on Monday while having treatment. I felt really euphoric and grateful…

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Sunrises like this make running at 5am worth it

Can’t beat this feeling. I’m sat having chemo watching some of my favourite music videos on Youtube. I’m enjoying a nice sleepy buzz from the from the huge dose of Piriton I had earlier. They give it to me to stop me having an allergic reaction to the treatment. It knocks me out and I often joke that the nurses administer it just to shut me up.

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The nurses at Rosemere are amazing!

It’s a gorgeous day outside, but I’m not sad to be indoors. The windows are open and there’s lovely  gentle breeze blowing softly in. The atmosphere in the chemo room feels light and airy. It’s a joy to be here. I’m sleepy and could feel vulnerable, but I’m safe and cared for. I love spending time with the nurses. They never stop smiling. Who wouldn’t want to spend time amongst such cheeriness. I also don’t mind being here, because it feels like I’ve already done my work today. This morning, before treatment, I ran 6 miles and have been to the gym. It’s always important to me to fit in exercise before chemo, because it might be a few days before I can do it again.

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Such a beautiful sunrise. I love the peach and orange hues

This morning felt extra special though. I usually run at 5am with my friend Simon. Running at this time of day we’ve seen all kinds of weather, especially in the winter when it’s so dark I’ve used a head torch. Just as it was starting to get light again the clocks changed and plunged us back into darkness. We’ve not been for an early run recently, so it was a surprise to be running in sunlight all of a sudden. This morning’s sunrise bathed the world in a beautiful warm, deep orange glow. It was a joy to experience the world as it was waking. It felt like God crafted such a breathtaking sunrise just for us. There were lots of people around later in the morning when I was on my way back from the gym. I was stopping to take photos while they went about their mornings travelling to work and school. I couldn’t believe it that no one else was stopping to appreciate this daily miracle.

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Love running with my buddy Simon

That’s the great thing about retiring from work on ill health grounds. I’ve got the time and opportunity to appreciate the commonplace. I guess it’s also the cancer and the connection I have with my own mortality. It’s not unusual for people who’ve had their existence threatened to find joy in creation and the natural environment. The musician Wilko Johnson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer around the same time as me back in 2012. He has talked about how he’d never felt as alive as when he’d been told he had incurable cancer. A self confessed ‘miserable so and so’ all his life, he felt intense elation when sunshine hit his face as he left hospital upon hearing the news.

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Even when you’ve been told you have cancer and may die there’s still so many things to be grateful for. That was definitely how I felt 5 mins into my run yesterday. It had been a rotten day. For most of it I’d been struggling with pain from a blockage in my stoma. I’d missed an exercise class I’d been looking forward to for ages and a lunch with friends. I was in a stinker of a mood and was getting cross with my family, so I took myself off for a run after dinner. It was a lovely evening, the sort to be enjoyed with a nice glass of wine, but instead I was out running. It was exactly what I needed. Running in the sunshine melted away all my grumpiness. And as the light started to fail the sunset was just as breathtaking as today’s sunrise. It was a joy to behold. I felt like God knew I was in a funk and put the sunset there to lift my spirits.

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A breathtaking sunset on Sunday.

Finding joy in the banal and everyday, like a sunrise or sunset is what I try to do these days, there are so many blessings to count. Even if it rains the rest of the week at least I’ve had a lovely day today with a warm, sunny blanket wrapped around me during treatment. I’ve also had great company from nurses and fellow patients, some beautiful sights to appreciate and the energy to run too. I feel fortunate.

 

We are fundraising for three amazing cancer charities: Beating Bowel Cancer, Mummy’s Star and Rosemere Cancer Foundation. Thanks so much for all your donations so far.

Please click on the link to donate, any donations would be gratefully received:

http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/bensbowelmovements

I’m on facebook: facebook.com/6marathons6months

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

Hooray for chemo?

I started writing this a couple of weeks ago when I was recovering from treatment. It’s funny reading it back the morning of my scan results. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with chemo. It’s horrible stuff. It’s really nauseating and tiring and after more than 50 doses I occasionally find it difficult to feel happy about going for treatment. On those occasions I’m really grateful for the nurses who soon perk me up:

Nafisa treated me last time.  I'm so grateful for all the care the nurses at Rosemere give me.

Nafisa treated me last time. I’m so grateful for all the care the nurses at Rosemere give me.

I always seem to forget what chemo is like. It’s probably a measure of how much we manage to pack into the time between treatments, but it’s always a surprise how much it knocks me out. I don’t think I dwell too much on treatment and how nauseas and tired it makes me. If I did I probably wouldn’t want to go. 
I ran to the hospital for the last dose of chemo from that course. A novel way to travel ;)

I ran to the hospital for my chemo appontment. It was the final dose of my most recent course of treatment. I’ve never run to have treatment before, but I always run the morning before chemo. It was a novel way to travel 😉

I ran to the hospital for my chemo appontment. It was the final dose of my most recent course of treatment. I’ve never run to have treatment before, but I always run the morning before chemo. It was a novel way to travel 😉

I was really frustrated this week. Being stuck in bed for days is tedious. I’m an active person and when I’m not stuck in bed I’m out running, cycling and lifting weights in the gym. I know how lucky I am. I probably get more exercise than anyone receiving cancer treatment has a right to expect, so I should probably be more laid back about not being able to train. I should be more kind to myself, but I know my level of activity gives my cancer a battering. According to Macmillan’s Move More report, bowel cancer patients that get 6 hours moderate intensity exercise a week can reduce their risk of dying from the disease by around 50% and, generally speaking, the fitter I get the more I can tolerate chemo. I know exercise helps me, so I feel extremely motivated to train as often and as hard as I can. There is a fine line between dedication and obsession though and this week in my frustration I may have lost sight of where it is.
I was out running and going to the gym days after I wrote this. I should have had more patience with myself!

I was out running and going to the gym days after I wrote this. I should have had more patience with myself!

I think anyone would feel the same. It’s great having the chance to watch movies and TV shows, but there’s only so much you can watch before you start to go bonkers. I wonder how other cancer patients manage. 
I love the running and the beautiful sights I get to see when I'm out pounding the streets. It's one of the things I miss when I'm in bed after chemo.

I love the running and the beautiful sights I get to see when I’m out pounding the streets. It’s one of the things I miss when I’m in bed after chemo.

No matter how difficult or annoying it is for me it’s much harder work for my family, especially my wife Louise. It’s not easy for her caring for me as I languish in bed. I lose count of the number off times she makes the trip up and down the stairs bringing me food, drink and helping me to feel less isolated during my time convalescing. She has a job and three children to feed, take to nursery and two different schools and extra curricular activities. It’s a struggle for and I honestly don’t know how she manages. When I rise from my slumber she’ll apologise for the state of the house, but I just think It’s amazing how she’s kept us going and all fed and the girls in clean clothes each morning.
She’d never say or even suggest it, but I still feel a bit of a burden. I also worry about the impact my being in bed has on the girls. It can’t be easy for them to see me in bed and so weak. 
Ran my 15th marathon yesterday. Feel so lucky to be able to run! I hope my results are good, so I can plan more marathons!

Ran my 15th marathon with my friend Fay yesterday. Feel so lucky to be able to run! I hope my results are good, so I can plan more marathons!

It is funny reading this back today of all days. I don’t think cancer treatment is something anyone ever actively enjoys. It’s interesting to read back and see how frustrated I get sometimes and how worried I get about the effect it has on my family, but as I often say chemo is better than the alternative. Sometimes I don’t want to go for treatment, but I know how lucky I’ve been to have treatment options and I’ll never complain about having chemo. Lots of people would love to be in my situation and be receiving treatment. It has prolonged my life. Our Oncologist gave me 6-12 months to live 28 months ago, in that time I’ve done so much. I’ve run 15 marathons and with our friends and family we’ve raised more than £30,000 for charity, but the best thing of all has been celebrating two birthdays with all three of my daughters. I’ve lived long enough to have lovely, proper conversations with my youngest, see my middle daughter start school and my eldest approach the end of primary school. I know that treatment (and my exercise) has given me so much more life. If this is my life- to go for treatment every fortnight I’ll happily take it.
Out for a walk with my girls. My eldest recently took off the stabilisers on her bike. Very proud!

Out for a walk with my girls. My eldest recently took off the stabilisers on her bike. Very proud!

I may have the occasional grumble or frustration with treatment and side effects, but right now I just want to hear the news that my scan results are positive and that my cancer hasn’t grown or spread. I yearn for nothing more than the opportunity to have more treatment. No matter how tough treatment can be booking my next chemo appointment is going to be fantastic.

From Facebook

No rest for the wicked…

Early start for me this morning. Cycled to the gym for a decent session and managed to get back in time for the girl’s breakfast. Then later on ran to the Rosemere Cancer Centre for my chemo appointment.

Routine is very important to me. If I train the morning of a chemo appointment then no matter how bad my side effects are I’ve managed at least one visit to the gym and one run on my treatment week.

Never ran to a chemo appointment before so was a bit of a novelty. Was a great way to clear my head though. It’s tough sometimes going for chemo knowing treatment will make me feel so nauseas I can barely speak (Still, it gives Louise a rest from my constant chatter). I arrived at Rosemere feeling uplifted, serene and ready for anything.

Had a great chat with my new friends Mike and Sheila. We really get to met some lovely people there. Hope your treatment went well today Mike.

Note to self: when running to chemo appointment remember to get changed before being hooked up to my drugs drip. Impossible to change shirts without disconnecting. Never mind.

I’m resting at home now and feeling a little under the weather, but I can’t wait to get back out there once I’m feeling better. What adventures will I have in the weeks before my next treatment?

Thanks for all your kind comments today. http://ift.tt/1Ja9os6

From Facebook

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We are in Best magazine this week. Really glad to have an opportunity to tell our story in the national press. Louise and I really hope that by doing so we are able encourage others to come forward wit their symptoms.

We also hope that people reading it feel motivated to exercise. Not everyone can run a marathon, but most people can do something. My friend Kate, who’s recently been going through chemo, inspires me by getting out and walking to the shops. To some such effort is a real test of their endurance, like a marathon is for others. The key is to stay active, if you’re able.

Thanks to Beating Bowel Cancer for helping us get this piece out there. The article didn’t have as much information about bowel cancer symptoms as I’d like. If you want to know more about bowel cancer symptoms please follow the link:

https://www.beatingbowelcancer.org/bowel-cancer-symptoms

http://ift.tt/1L9KTKB http://ift.tt/1Ja9os6

From Facebook

Longest ride yet. It wasn’t the fastest pace, but I’m just glad to be getting more cycled miles in my legs.

I’m very tired. In addition to those 26.58 miles I went to the gym and walked for two hours today. I’m gonna have a good night’s sleep, because in the morning I’m tackling Preston Park Run.

Ran it last week with my friends Fay and Shenaz. It was special, as it was Fay’s first and it was Preston Park Run’s 3rd birthday (people wore fancy dress, hence our bum pants). It’s another special one tomorrow I’m running it with another two mates, this time Leona and Helen form Chorlton Runners. Can’t wait. It’s also going be great to see other parkrun buddies, like Matt, Warren and Dave (and others). http://ift.tt/1Ja9os6