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

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.

Berlin marathon aka new PB or bust…

It’s been a funny week. On Tuesday I had a great 5 mile run, an uplifting prayer meeting with some of the guys from church, then back home and straight into the morning routine with the girls. Tried to make the most of it. It’s the last morning we are going to have together for over a week.

Had a lovely walk to school with Skye. We always have such a laugh and sing songs. I’m really going to miss her and her sisters when we are away. Before heading home I went to the gym for a great pre-Berlin weights session.

I’m excited about the marathon, but I love my girls. Time away from them while I’m running these races could prove a little counter productive. If my health should fail I don’t want to regret spending time taking part in marathons, when I could have been with them. I need to make sure every time take my place at the start line I give it my all. That’s what’s going to happen in Berlin. I’m going to leave it all on the course. I can rest when I’m done.

The afternoon was packed with an interview with the lovely Rachel Hurst from Lancashire Evening Post, a much needed catch up with the always patient Gemma Ali from Beating Bowel Cancer and then an unexpected trip to Salford and the ITV studio of Granada Reports. We were chared by all we met and had a real blast. We were worried about talking over each other and coming across as a bickering couple, but it passed without incident.

To see us not fall out (for once) please follow the link: http://goo.gl/KgYGop

Had a wonderful time at Granada reports

Had a wonderful time at Granada reports

Didn’t then get much sleep as we hadn’t packed or even bought currency. Thank heavens for our mate Dan who drove us to the airport. In the past few days in Berlin we’ve had a great relaxing time. Just what Louise and I needed. We’ve seen some amazing things, meet some wonderful people and spent valuable time with friends and family that have travelled. Including my brother Will who’s been away in the States for months. I’ve missed him a great deal!

Berlin is an amazing city. So lucky to be here!

Berlin is an amazing city. So lucky to be here!

I registered at the marathon expo and got my race number on Friday. There’s lots of stalls promoting sportswear companies, other marathons on the calendar and many other aspects of running. It was huge and occupied the whole of the old Nazi era Templehof Airport. On the way the most amazing thing happened.

As we were leaving the subway Louise and I were chatting about my fitness challenge and running 6 marathons in 6 months, despite constant chemo for terminal bowel cancer, when I heard someone from behind me asked if I’m Ben. It was surprising to say the least and totally amazing!

It was cool to be recognised in the street all the way over here in Berlin. I know I’m not really famous, but it feels in some small way that I might be making a difference, that we are reaching people and we might really be helping to get the message out about bowel cancer. The extra Facebook likes we’ve gained this week is only going to help us carry on this work.

Lindsey and Leona are from Chorlton Runners, a running club I have no connection to, but have been supporting me ever since I setup my Facebook page. I heard a while back that they had runners at Berlin, but the idea that we’d actually find each other amongst thousands of others is amazing.

 

Amazing to bump into Lindsey and Leona

Amazing to bump into Lindsey and Leona

Today is the last of my 6 marathons. I’ve run a marathon a month since April. Now it’s the big one… Berlin! I’ve worked hard for this. I’ve had chemo throughout and it’s been cruel. My body has been battered with cancer fighting toxic drugs, but I’ve carried on training. I’ve never lost sight of my goal.

So much has happened since my cancer adventure began

So much has happened since my cancer adventure began

Berlin is a great course and I’ve got a decent chance of running a personal best (anything under 4hrs50 would be great) but whatever happens I’ve done well to get here.

Last year we thought my cancer might kill me, but this year with the help of everyone around me I’ve been fighting hard. With each training run and gym session I feel like I’ve been clawing my life back and gaining fitness. And not just so I can run marathons, but to help me get as strong as possible, so I can fight cancer for as long as possible. I love my life and I’ve no intention of giving it up easily I’ve too much to live for. I want to carry on watching my daughters grow!!

I can’t wait. It’s going to be great!

Ben’s Bowel Movements. Running 6 marathons in 6 months in support of Cancer charities:

Giving page:
http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BensBowelMovements

Facebook:
Facebook.com/6marathons6months

I’m on twitter too:
@ChemoDadRuns

Moving faster than a speeding bullet on the the Isle of Man ( sort of)…

The story of this marathon and the way it unfolded is much different from the way I thought it would pan out. As this is one of the later marathons I had been thinking about it for a long time. One of The things I thought most about was the likelihood I’d be last. With the size and quality of the field I thought I’d be dead last. In the end that was far from the case and I passed a steady stream of runners as I smashed my personal best by 37 minutes. That doesn’t tell the whole story as it was also a remarkable 1hr37 quicker than my time two weeks ago. But then this race was different. For the first time I wasn’t apprehensive. I felt stronger than ever after training hard on the street and in the gym and I couldn’t wait to get going. Being fitter gave me lots of confidence. I was hopeful of a decent time, but that to me meant anything under 6 hours, so running 4hrs53 was a real surprise.
A lot faster than I expected to run. I printed the 6hr pace band in anticipation I'd run at that speed

A lot faster than I expected to run. I printed the 6hr pace band in anticipation I’d run at that speed

Running a sub 5hr marathon meant a great deal to me. When I started running years ago, before my diagnosis it was my target was to run, actually run, not jog or walk the distance. A time beginning 4hrs something was my target. Something in that range felt like an achievable, but challenging goal. Obviously I gave up my marathon dream when i was diagnosed. Earlier this year I took up the running gauntlet again. I’ve been amazed at what I’ve been able to despite having terminal cancer, but running a 4hr something marathon was the elusive final piece of my running rehabilitation. I had begun to wonder if there were physiological reasons for not being able to run fast. Maybe my core had been weakened by the surgeries and having a stoma. Finally, I’ve been able to train hard enough to run that fast. Now though my ultimate goal of 4hrs30 is within range. I feel like he sky is the limit. All my distance PBs are within my grasp. I’m looking forward to having a go at my half marathon PB set when I was a fitter man. My 5k and 10k times might be harder to achieve, but I feel they are there for the taking.
Quite tired after the IoM marathon, but it was worth it!!

Quite tired after the IoM marathon, but it was worth it!!

All this with Tornado Bertha to contend with. It was incredibly wet as I stood in a shelter with journalists from ITV and BBC. The weather brightened enough that I could do an interview with Kelly Harvey from the BBC.
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Amy Mulhern from ITV was amazing and followed me around all day. Even if the weather did get considerably better it still mustn’t have been easy for her in the wet and cold.
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I set off really gently as I usually do. Even though I’d been feeling good lately, I still didn’t have enough fitness to know exactly how my body will perform. I got talking to Darren Kennish the sole wheelchair racer. At the end if the Ramsey promenade there’s a sharp hill and he sadly toppled back. It didn’t dampen his spirits and he carried on. We got chatting a little and he briefly overtook me, but unfortunately had to retire on medical advice half way. His wife was amazing have him great support and cheered me on too.
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Cracking guy Darren. He had tons of spirit!!

For the first half of the marathon I wasn’t too concerned about pace. I ran 2hrs30 for the first half, which is probably my fastest and the thought occurred to me that I was on for a PB. I thought I’d gone out too fast and that I’d fade. So much so that I didn’t bother to take photos during my first lap, because I thought I’d have a second chance. Sadly didn’t take many photos of the beautiful landscape on my second lap, because i was going too fast and didn’t want to loose time. It’s a shame because it really was beautiful and I didn’t keep up the video diaries I’d been filming. The possibility of a fast time was something I really couldn’t compromise on.
one of the few photos I took of the beautiful scenery, but i couldnt afford to lose time.

One of the few photos I took of the beautiful scenery, but I couldn’t afford to lose time.

It didn’t hurt anywhere near as much as some of the others. The absence of struggle and the comparative fluidity and calmness of my movement meant I could enjoy the race. I didn’t just like the race I loved it and not just the usual love of achievement against the odds and what my determination allowed me to achieve. I loved the running. The thrill of running a good pace and knowing I was going to smash my PB took hold during the second half, which I ran 10-15 mins quicker than the first. I could barely contain my excitement. I remember shouting to a pair of marshals that I had terminal cancer and I was going to smash my PB. Probably Not what they expected to hear from a marathon runner.
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Couldn’t wipe the smile off my face

I was struggling a little towards the end. my pace dropped to 12 mins/ mile in the penultimate mile. I had to dig in and keep the pace up. Luckily there’s a downhill stretch which gave me some momentum and I kicked on and finished strongly at the Ballacloan Stadium. I got an incredible reception at the finish

A few people came up to me and gave donations. Had a really lovely chat with Nikki Boyde who finished as the fastest woman in 7th place. She was really lovely and made no mention of her achievement. She’s the now the fourth person I know that’s running the Chester marathon, so I’m really tempted.  I met two amazing Celts, Peter an Irishman and Stephane, a Breton tackling 7 Celtic marathons for 3 fantastic children’s charities: Invictus trust, Ellies Haven and Action for children. Had a great chat. Brilliant guys. Had an invitiation to join them for their last marathon at the Eden Project in Cornwall. It’s a long way to travel, but I’m sorely tempted.
Peter McGahan and Stephane Delourme running the Celtic 7 Marathon Challenge

Peter McGahan and Stephane Delourme running the Celtic 7 Marathon Challenge

Another person I met with a the finish line was, my now mate for life, Robin Tillbrock. We got in touch on Facebook in the weeks before the marathon. We were on the same crossing and had a chat. He’s a very interesting bloke who climbed Mont Blanc in the months before. We went for a drink and something to eat with him and his family after the marathon. It was great to have the chance to get to know him, his wife Ruth and son Adam a bit better. Robin also likes to test himself physically and tackle new challenges. He’s taking on the Montane Spine Race in January. It’s an incredibly tough event, but I’ve no doubt he can do it. I really hope to be able to tackle a mountain or a climb with him in the future.
Robin was running his first marathon. He finished in 03:58:49 as 3rd in Men 50 - 54 category. Great work!!

Robin was running his first marathon. He finished in 03:58:49 and 3rd in Men 50 – 54 category. Great work!!

These marathons have given me a new mindset. I’ve got stores of determination built up and a set of endurance skills I never had before  which allow me to tough it out when I think I cant carry on. when coupled with a little fitness this results in a pace I genuinely didn’t think I was capable of. Can this be applied to fighting cancer and enduring chemo?
I'll keep running and fighting cancer as ling as I can!

I’ll keep running and fighting cancer as ling as I can!

The ferry journey back to Heysham was tinged with sadness. We had a great week away on an incredible island, full of amazing sights and lovely people. We were quite unprepared for the beauty of the hills, the incredible views and the breathtaking coastline. It was important for us all to spend some family time together after the marathon. Time with the Louise and the girls is nourishment for my soul and we threw ourselves in to having a great time and enjoying all that wonderful place had to offer.
We got what we came for!

We got what we came for!

I started chemo again last week  (Monday 18th Aug). It has affected my fitness. The side effects have been unkind. But I’ve worked hard to build my fitness in the last few weeks again and I’m going to work hard to maintain it. Not long to go until Berlin. Before then though I’ve got two half marathons to look forward to. There’s the Hilton Half in Blackpool on Sunday (31/08) my cousin Sam is coming to visit and is going to run it with me. Then the week after Louise and I with my sister Grace and our friend Tony and running the Great North Run. For lots of different reasons I’m excited about the GNR. Can’t wait!
Ben’s Bowel Movements. Running 6 marathons in 6 months in support of Cancer charities:
 
Giving page:
Facebook:
I’m on twitter too:
@ChemoDadRuns

New adventures in punishment (aka what it feels like to run a Marathon with little or no fitness)

I’m conscious that each time I write a post-marathon blog I seem to be constructing a tale of runner’s woe: ‘this marathon was hard, the hardest thing I’ve ever done and much harder than the last one I ran’. Despite the fact that it’s true and this marathon was indeed harder than the last one, I feel like a broken record repeating the same line again and again. Ben’s Bowel Movements, the challenge I’ve set myself of running 6 marathons in 6 months is fast becoming a thorough examination of my resolve. I’ve written before that I expected to gain fitness as I ran more marathons, not lose it as has happened so far. In fitness terms I’m running on fumes and making up the difference by relying on sheer determination. It feels like each time I run a marathon I’m subjecting my body to a new level of punishment. When I ran Blackpool it was probably the hardest thing I’d done. That effort was surpassed by the Brathay Windermere marathon. My toil there on the hills and in the heat comfortably became the toughest thing I’d ever done. Third time around I didn’t think it possible again, but just when I thought I knew what to expect from chemo, my body and the running something new was thrown up. Whether or not I wanted it, I was again given the chance to master an even more punishing situation.

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The fortnight before my third marathon in Wakefield I’d had probably the worst cycle of chemo I’d ever. At the end of my treatment day I knew something wasn’t right. After 6.5-7hrs of treatment I’m usually crippled by nausea and feel so sick I can’t talk. However, this usually lifts after I’ve slept and had something to eat. The day after I spend most of the day in bed, but I at least feel like I’ve returned to the land of the living. This time, the day after treatment I still felt really shocking. The nausea gave way to exhaustion and it became clear that I was dealing with some pretty severe chemo side effects. Diarrhoea might seem like quite a trivial ailment to have, especially when compared to cancer, but it strips your body of minerals and saps all your strength. For most of the the next two weeks I was in pain, felt weak and didn’t want to get out of bed (which, my wife reminds me, also made me grumpy and frustrated).

Emma and Dan are great friends of us and took care of the girls while we went to the marathon course. They even made a sign with the girls.

Emma and Dan are great friends of us and took care of the girls while we went to the marathon course. They even made a sign with the girls.

 

When it came to the weekend of the marathon I was still poorly and spent the day in bed before the race. I hadn’t trained for almost two weeks and I’d be lying if I said I had no doubts about running the marathon. But before I went to bed on the eve of the race I’d made up my mind to run and was determined to finish, no matter what! By hook or crook the Wakefield marathon was going to be run and with little or no fitness the difference was always going to be made up by my determination and resolve to get to the end. As much as I didn’t want to I was forced to discover new resources of determination and resolve to get to the end. These times of adversity are when you learn most about yourself. Just like receiving a cancer diagnosis, or getting the news that your cancer is terminal. You never know how you’ll fare in a given situation, until you’re there. I’ve faced those things and I’ve learned just how tough I really am. Perhaps I might not look it, but I’m tough, I’d just rather have discovered it some other way, not through cancer. By the same token I’d rather not have woken the morning of the Wakefield marathon facing the prospect or running a marathon without any miles in my legs.

 

It was a hard hard race!

It was a hard hard race! Great to support from Kenny and Pete!

Imperfect or incomplete prep isn’t new to me, but this time it was different. From the start I knew I’d have help getting round from a cracking guy, Tom Hacker. I got a lot of reassurance from that. Tom is an all round great guy and the fittest, most dedicated amateur athlete I’ve met. He has raised £30,000 for cancer charities so far in his fundraising career and is hoping to raise £20,000 during his next challenge running Coast 2 Coast in August. It was great to have a serious fundraiser like Tom along to help me, but more than anything else he’s a top guy and despite his questionable taste in movies (whadyya mean Signs isn’t a great film?) excellent company! During my cancer adventure and especially since I’ve started my fitness challenge I’ve come into contact with lots of people who’ve been touched by cancer, many of whom have lost someone. It would be natural for them to shy away from this snarling beast and not to want to have anything to do with cancer or other sufferers, but in a lot of cases something really special happens. They don’t shy away, they reach out to others and do all they can to help fight cancer by raising money, awareness or supporting patients. In doing so, they turn this snarling beast in to something a little less scary. Tom and I have both faced hardship through cancer, but we are also proof that cancer cannot dim the human spirit. At the Wakefield marathon we spent the day sharing our stories and our determination not to let cancer and all it’s taken from us get in the way of us achieving our goals. I came away feeling more motivated than ever.

10407920_1530278237200788_929488733269776017_nObviously I didn’t know what to expect from myself in the race, but we just took it easy to start with. Tom set a good pace at roughly 12 min/ mile pace for the first 12 miles. After that I started to struggle and walked a bit. We still got through the first half marathon in around 2hrs40. If I could have maintained that pace I could have run a PB. I’m not too disappointed the second half took 3hrs30, because I really wasn’t carrying any fitness into this race, but I think it’s encouraging for the future. If I can scrape some fitness together then a sub 5hr marathon in the flat conditions of Berlin might possible. I took a pit stop at the halfway mark, when once again Louise proved how amazing she is. I was quite stressed at the physical state I was in and was a little short with her. But she was at her sunny best, and despite my behaving like a berk she sorted me out. I have never felt so shocking half way through any race I’ve run. It could have been easy to stop. During the race Tom asked me why I was running my marathons. Raising awareness of Bowel Cancer is very important to me, as is raising money, but the thing that really galvanised my resolve was the image I had of my girls and my burning desire to make them proud. I couldn’t stop, despite the times when it hurt and the times when it really hurt and my legs screamed at to stop. There was no spring in my step and at times, roughly every few steps I took after mile 12, it was a nasty attritional effort. I was stopping to walk quick frequently and if Tom hadn’t kept on top of these breaks it could really have taken a great deal longer. Surprisingly, I ran the marathon in 6hrs10, so quicker than Windermere. Tom’s help made a ton of difference. I’ve never felt as bad when running as I did in Wakefield. In a lot of ways I had no right to be running a marathon being so unfit, but I can draw an immense amount of satisfaction from finishing the race, despite how broken my body was. Even though I’d spent a lot of in pain I really enjoyed the day, especially chatting with Tom. It was great to hear his story and share mine. Wish I hadn’t been so wrecked as I could have chatted and appreciated his 80s workout anthems more.

 

Really glad on Tom's support. Most of all it's great meet one of the world's good guys.

Really glad on Tom’s support. Most of all it’s great meet one of the world’s good guys.

I had some great support at the race. Louise and I estimated 25-30 people supported me on the day. Some of them ran with me for a spell, others handed me food or water or simply cheered me on from the side of the road, or like Grace all of the above! I appreciated the time and effort all of them put in. They were always where I needed them and I’m grateful.

Had tons of help on the course

Had tons of help on the course

 

It’s a wonderful feeling having the support of your friends and family, but sometimes I’m guilty of taking the most important one for granted. Some of my friends and family have an idea of how tough my life can be, but Louise knows for sure.

Love you Louise!

Love you Louise!

This isn’t a judgement on everyone else. It’s a tough thing to do to show someone how poorly you get and Louise allows me to keep my dignity by answering the door when I’m ill. Given it’s Louise who puts me back together after chemo, she knows how much harder I’m choosing to make my life, by tackling marathons while undergoing chemo. Love isn’t always in the things people say, but the things they do and even the things they don’t. I felt Louise’s love at the start line. She could have stopped me and other girls might have, but she knows just how much this means to me. This is my chance to do run, to challenge myself and make memories for my daughters, it’s now or never. Now that I’ve got three marathons under my belt nothing is going to stop me now!

Love this lot!

Love this lot!

 

Ben’s Bowel Movements. Running 6 Marathons in 6 months in support of cancer charities:

Giving page: http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/BensBowelMovements

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/6marathons6months

Please follow me on twitter @ChemoDadRuns

 

Scan results come back good…

Apologies for not posting anything for a while, it’s been a hectic time lately. We finished the course of chemo I was going through then I had a CT scan to make sure the treatment worked, before we resumed chemo again. As I mentioned in my last post the scan at the end of treatment is always the time when I get a little anxious. This was no different, in fact I think I was a lot more apprehensive then usual. Perhaps, it was because everything has been going so well lately. I feel fit, but not just fit, strong and healthy too. I’ve been eating well, lifting weights, doing sit ups (but being careful not to herniate my stoma), press ups and of course running.

 

Been feeling great lately and running up big hills like this one at White Coppice.

Been feeling great lately and running up big hills like this one at White Coppice.

It's been great to go running with Louise lately. Perhaps she might run a marathon with me? ;)

It’s been great to go running with Louise lately. Perhaps she might run a marathon with me? 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I feel great, so was a little concerned that things were almost going a little too well. Lots of people offered me support on Twitter and Facebook. I was quite worried, so all that support was very important to me and helped me before we went to the hospital for the scan and then the results. Anyway, after waiting for a week and getting all nervous all over again we went to see my wonderful Oncologist. He’s seriously fantastic. A friend of mine is fond of saying that people enter your life for a reason. There’s clearly a very straightforward explanation why our Oncologist is in our life. I have have Bowel Cancer, live in Preston and receive treatment at RPH, but I could have lived in a different town, had a different type of cancer and a different medical team. That might sound fanciful, but it’s at least true that I could have been assigned another oncologist at RPH. Regardless of how or why we have our oncologist I’m glad he’s ours!! On scan results day we often try to read the expression on his face, to see what the news is, when he walks in. He’s an amiable, cheery chap, though, so isn’t always easy to read. We were very relieved when he told us we had good news! My cancer is stable and hasn’t grown or spread. He also told us I’d need an ultrasound (which I had last week) because the people performing the scan couldn’t find a vein properly due to how rubbish my veins have become after 15 months of chemo in two years. They did inject the dye, but the vein collapsed (and caused me no small amount of pain, I didn’t scream though, which is usually what happens they said).

 

My arm more than a week after the failed attempt to inject me with imaging dye

My arm more than a week after the failed attempt to inject me with imaging dye

 

The ultrasound showed no abnormalities in my liver. The doctor who did the scan also performed most of the scans, which led to my diagnosis two years ago. He was as kind and gentle last week as he was two years ago. I have been fortunate with the doctors I have had!

While talking to our Oncologist following our good news he revealed to us that he plans to come to my next Marathon at Windermere. It was as much as Louise and I could both stand and we almost wept in front of him. Think we managed to maintain our dignity until he’d left the room or at least I hope so! The list of reasons why he’s awesome is becoming almost exhaustive, but suffice to say we were bowled over. I haven’t heard of a busy, hard working Consultant taking time out to watch a reckless patient embarrass himself on a hilly marathon course. Amazing! Certainly can’t let myself down now.  Its given me a little more motivation to train harder, if any was needed.

 

 

In the Lakes to recce the Windermere Marathon route

In the Lakes to recce the Windermere Marathon route

 

Before we left clinic we discussed the possibility of a break in treatment. I hadn’t realised how greedy I’d become and he gently delivered a little reality check. I wanted a break to help me train for and run Marathons. However, as he pointed out, the only reason for taking a break from treatment was if my quality of life was suffering ie. if I was suffering from bad fatigue, sickness, loss of appetite or anything else related to the side effects of treatment. He pointed out that if I’m well enough to run marathons then I hadn’t any great quality of life issues. I have always been grateful to be able run and do other exercise and it hadn’t ever occurred to me that I might be asking too much. I’m happy to push myself and try and defy popular wisdom around what terminal cancer patients can achieve, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of treatment or family. Louise my wife has reason enough to be cross with me, especially recently when I turned up half an hour late for church after a long run.

 

My beautiful wife Louise always makes sure I make time for training, but also that it doesn't completely take over

My beautiful wife Louise always makes sure I make time for training, but also that it doesn’t completely take over

 

Perhaps sometimes the running takes over a little and I need to achieve a better balance. I’m grateful to our Oncologist and Louise for gently reminding me of the balance that needs to be struck between life, treatment and running.

 

The three of us decided that I would resume treatment the week after, so balance was restored. Treatment is the foundation of my well being and it’s an understatement to say that running certainly would be difficult if my cancer grew or spread. Obviously that could happen at any time if my treatment stopped working, so there’s no point in making things more difficult for myself.

 

Starting chemo again. My sixth course in total. Note my cheerful tee. I always try to get my head in the right place for treatment

Starting chemo again. My sixth course in total. Note my cheerful tee. I always try to get my head in the right place for treatment

 

We were very happy indeed we as left hospital. So happy in fact that we both felt like carefree teenagers madly in love with each other. The relief at getting good scan results is huge and it briefly removes the spectre hanging over us. This feeling gives us an idea of what life could be if not for cancer. It’s not a depressing thought though. It just makes us feel extra grateful for good news and the times when we get to forget about it all. Besides, regardless of our situation, it’s great to feel in love with each other. Louise’s parents have given us huge support throughout my illness and have travelled over from Leeds at least once week since. They were looking after the girls that morning, so Louise and I went for a pub lunch. We had a happy, soppy time gazing lovingly at each other. On the way out we visited the conveniences and shared a kiss as we temporarily went our separate ways. There was a table of good old boys putting the world to rites who shouted for us to ‘get a room’. Louise was already talking to them as I came out of the toilet. It was good, jovial stuff and I shared with them the reason for our display of affection and they offered us congratulations and shook my hand. There’s moments in life that bind you to the rest of humanity and give you the opportunity to share something that people have a universal understanding of, like getting married or the birth of a child. Getting good scan results is definitely worth sharing with other people.

 

Love my girls. They really give me a boost. I want to do my best in the races for them.

Love my girls. They really give me a boost. I want to do my best in the races for them.

 

I then ran the 3-4 miles home from the hospital. I was determined to do that run come what may and I’m really glad we’d had positive results. Can’t imagine what that run would have been like otherwise. Even still I’d just had a nice lunch and tried getting out of it, but Louise wouldn’t let me. It was quite a hard run. It was warm and I’d not run in a while due to a nasty blister occupying the instep of my right foot. I got it during the Blackpool Marathon and because I don’t have an immune system it became infected.

 

My blister. Probably a little tto nasty for a blog post. Comment if you don't like it and I take it down :)

My blister. It stopped me running for weeks. Probably a little too nasty for a blog post. Comment if you don’t like it and I’ll take it down 🙂

 

I started off hard and then ran out of steam, but I wasn’t bothered about pacing it just was great to feel the wind in my… face. 6 days until my second marathon in Windermere. Can’t wait!

 

Added motivation provided by the gorgeous scenery around Lake Windermere

Added motivation provided by the gorgeous scenery around Lake Windermere

 

Ben’s Bowel Movements. Running 6 marathons in 6 months in support of Cancer charities:
http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BensBowelMovements

Twitter:
@ChemoDadRuns

 

 

Chemo is great…

The day after my first marathon I had my last dose of chemo of this current course. Quite a gruelling experience at the best of times, but a bit nuts after running a marathon. However, before I made it to hospital, I was invited on to the BBC Radio Lancashire breakfast show again to talk about my marathon. I was very tired, but Louise says it went ok.

When we got to the hospital one of the nurses called out that she’d seen me on the TV news. It was really sweet, but she did it in front lots of other patients in the clinic waiting room and I was a little shy about it all. I don’t feel I really deserve to be singled out, especially in front of fellow patients, some of whom have it a lot harder than me. It was a bit of a sign of things to come as a few others would also say nice things about my marathon run. I guess it shows the strength of the relationships we’ve built up with Doctors, Nurses and other staff at the hospital. We are lucky that the people we know, at hospital and elsewhere, like us and want to share in our successes, which is brilliant. But I’m just some bloke with cancer that runs a bit and it feels strange when people say very kind things to me, like I’m inspirational. I feel unworthy of comments like that and it’s really difficult to take sometimes. I feel like in my Cancer Adventure that I’m merely reacting to circumstance. All I’ve really done is maintain a positive attitude, admittedly through some pretty difficult circumstances. I know a handful of people that I feel are genuinely inspirational, people who give up their time to help others, in ways I could only dream of. In the situation I find myself in I’ve just looked after myself and often struggle even to do that. Let alone look after my family. Pete, a friend of mine said that people come away from talking to me about my cancer, and the seriousness of my illness, feeling happy and uplifted. He thinks this is because I’m very positive and don’t get let things bog me down. Not simply that, but he said I never let my situation get anyone else down either. I guess he’s right. I always like to make light of my situation and concentrate on all the good things that have happened to me. You never know how you’ll react or behave if something like cancer happens to you and it’s pleasing to me that I’ve managed to maintain a positive attitude through it all. Like lots of other patients I like using humour as an antidote to the stresses of cancer. I like to tell jokes about the things that have happened to me. Two years in I’ve got a lot of material. Louise, bless her, has heard them all a million times and rolls her eyes whenever I trot them out. I blame my Dad; I’ve definitely inherited his poor sense of humour!

 

Anyway, a few other people on that treatment day said some very sweet things. I’m very grateful to them. I’ll remember all the things they said and do my best to use their positive messages to give me energy on my training runs and marathons. After a short wait we got to see our Oncologist, but before he came in a few nurses we know from clinic came into his consultation room to see us. It was lovely to see them all. We’ve known many of them for while and I’ve talked to a few of them about my running and the distances I’ve managed, so to see them the day after my first marathon was really great. After they left my Oncologist came in and we then spent more time discussing my race than we did discussing my treatment. He said some special things and praised me for running the marathon. I told him what I’d said on the radio the week before that he’s a special doctor, one that’s encouraged me to live life and squeeze the most out of the time I have left. I really feel that his care and attitude is definitely one of the core reasons I’m running marathons.

Had a really difficult run, but it's difficult to be glum, with lovely daughters like baby Heidi.

Had a really difficult training run in the week, but it’s difficult to be glum with lovely daughters like baby Heidi. I wouldn’t even be running at all if it wasn’t for the medical care I’ve received.

Turns out I’m the third patient in his care to run a marathon, which I think says a lot about how he encourages and enables his patients to achieve. I pointed this out to him, but in typically humble fashion he told me that it was all down to me and my attitude. Such a wonderful thing to say.

 

Another such man who’s also had a positive role in my treatment was the surgeon who operated on my bowel and gave me life in March 2012. We’d not really seen him since I’d recovered from surgery and hadn’t actually gone to see him, but instead a colorectal nurse who’s been a rock to us for the past two years. She was working in the Bowel Surgeon’s clinic and when he heard we were there he asked to see us too. He’d seen me on the news the night before and told me I’m an inspiration to many in my situation. Like the kind words my Oncologist said to me it was difficult to take especially as, just like our Oncologist, my Bowel Surgeon is one of the kindest and most compassionate doctors I’ve ever met.

My bowel surgeon. He removed my cancerous colon in March 2012 and gave me life.

My surgeon. He removed my cancerous colon in March 2012 and gave me life.

Neither of them have any of the hubris and ego that might be associated with other high achieving doctors. Regardless of the whys and wherefores of the things they said about me it’s certain that my Oncologist, Bowel Surgeon and others at the hospitals I’ve been treated at are the reason I can run now! But as I left the clinic I couldn’t resist having a chuckle with the nurses about how much I was limping with all my post marathon aches and pains. The nurses in the treatment room, when I went for chemo later that morning, were equally as kind as the other medical staff I’d seen earlier. The nurse who administered my drugs encouraged me to wear my medal. I must say though, I felt I little ridiculous wearing it as the day wore on. I got more and more nauseous and felt further and further removed from my marathon running self of a day earlier.

 

I’ve now come to the end of my course of treatment, so tomorrow (22/04/14) I will be having that most anxiety inspiring of medical procedures for any cancer patient, the dreaded scan. I always think of chemo as being a bubble. Chemo is great. That might sound a little perverse, but I’m given a course of treatment that lasts 12 weeks and nothing can really happen to me in that time. While I’m receiving treatment as far as I, or anyone else is aware, I’m doing well, my health is great and my cancer isn’t growing. During treatment I don’t have any serous concerns and I’m not worried about anything. I just get on with life, spending time with my girls, running, just normal stuff.

Being on chemo means I can just get on and live life with my wife and girls. They still might not thank me for taking them to see Stoke though.

Being on chemo means I can just get on and live life with my wife and girls. It’s unlikely they’ll thank me for taking them to see Stoke though.

The difficulties come with the last dose of chemo and the discussion of scan dates and dates for the post scan clinic appointment, when we get to hear our news. Even still, I won’t be dwelling too much on possible scan outcomes. I tend not to spend too much time agonising over things I can’t control, so it’s not going to get me down. Besides, the time spent lying down on the scan machine is always a great time for prayer and meditation.

 

Ben’s Bowel Movements. Running 6 marathons in 6 months in support of Cancer charities:

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BensBowelMovements

Twitter:
@ChemoDadRuns