Running with pancreatic cancer

Running a half marathon is not everyone’s idea of fun, but it has its rewards. The most important is the satisfaction when you finish! There is nothing quite like the feeling of triumph and relief as you gather yourself, pick up your knees and stretch out over the last fifty metres, often to applause from enthusiastic spectators. All of them are there to support someone just like you, so they mean it. Your own team of spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, children, friends, including those who have beaten you to the finish, or your Mum and Dad might be there too, clapping and very, very proud of you. Collecting your medal, t-shirt, goody bag, banana, bottle of water or whatever is else in on offer in return for your entry fee, is also a unique, magical moment. You have done something very difficult which few others ever manage to do. It is time to be pleased with yourself – big time.

A lot is talked about being positive when you have had cancer, or still living with it, but feeling upbeat is not always easy, is it? Well, achieving something special, starting with recovering and getting back to something like normal, will do it for you. That is special and the more you do the better you will feel, trust me. The trick is to do something and build on it. It doesn’t have to be running (or half marathons!) but there is a wealth of evidence that post treatment exercise lowers the risk of recurrence and makes you feel better about yourself. Please try it if you can. I mean, what have you got to lose? Even if your life turns out to be shorter then you hoped, and it may not, there is no reason why you can’t up the pace a little and make the most of it.

It is the achievement that matters. The little things that grow into big things; into a re-invented life. You don’t feel that great after surgery or chemotherapy, so your first target may be walking to the shops and back without falling over. When you have done that and realised that life is going on, the door to your new future slowly swings open. You need to understand that things are not the same anymore; they are changed and so is the rest of your life. Try not to avoid that fact. Just let yourself think about it and allow yourself to come to terms with it. Don’t fight it, go with it. If your cancer hasn’t killed you so far, then facing a few realities certainly won’t, will it?

You are still you. You still have a life, so what can you achieve? How about making that walk to the shops a daily mission. When you have done that for a month why not come back the long way? Perhaps you have a park nearby which you can walk round. Start with one circuit and work up to two and three. Look around the area for new routes and slowly walk further, then faster.

Do what I did after my pancreatic cancer surgery. When you feel strong enough, start walking in running shoes, ready to trot when you get the urge. When you do, just go for it. You may not have run before, but if your legs are still working, this may be the time to begin. If you had energy before, you will have it again, believe me. You don’t have to run that far. When you are ready, Google your local Park Run, a brilliant three-mile event held all over the world on Saturday morning. Participants range from 5 to 75, including beginners, those recovering from illness and injury, babies in pushchairs and dogs! There will be plenty of experienced, fast runners too, but remember that they once had to make a start, just like you.

My surgery was five years ago, when I was 68 and I am still here, running half marathons just because I can. Also, because finishing that 13.1 miles resonates through me, my daughters, my partner, my family and friends. Exercise will help you to heal and discourage the disease. Not only that but your courage, success and survival will inspire you and everyone around you. Hopefully, those whom you know and love will not suffer from a life-threatening crisis. But they will look at you and start to believe that if you can take your life by the throat and shake the best out of it, then they can too.