Running After Cancer ...Take One and Take Two

April 2019. It is London Marathon Day and I am sat on the sofa, crying.

I tearfully watch Eliud Kipchoge sprint effortlessly to victory, and I sob at the thousands of runners pushing themselves to conquer 26.2 miles. While I am swept up in the emotion of the event, I am mainly upset for myself - because I should have been there.  

Just six weeks previously, I was on track to realise my running dream to be on the start line of ‘The Greatest Race on Earth’. However, fate had other plans. Instead, I am watching the marathon on TV and waiting to find out if I have incurable cancer.

Three years previously, I had been diagnosed with Stage 2 melanoma and following surgery and a skin graft, I considered myself incredibly lucky to be cancer free. Having a serious condition at the age of 42 was a wake-up call. I was unfit and overweight, and I needed to take better care of myself. I wanted to get stronger in case the cancer returned.

So, I started running. A keen sprinter and netball player at school, my sporting prowess had completely deserted me as I shuffled my beetroot face and podgy, Lycra-clad body around my local park. But, despite feeling embarrassed, I fell in love with the endorphins and I stuck with it.

I was never going to be fast, but I thrived on the physical and mental health benefits that came with every workout. Anxiety from scans results and appointments... fears about cancer recurrence... niggles with work... all my worries were processed while clocking the miles. I lost three stone over several months and soon enough, Parkruns became 10ks, then 10-mile events became half marathons.

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In April 2017, I ran my first marathon. I chose Brighton as I live in Hove and the route goes right past my home. As my running buddy Clara and I turned into my street at Mile 17, the noise from family, friends and neighbours was overwhelming. It’s a wonderful memory of an extraordinary day. 

Clara and I crossed the line hand in hand at just over 5 hours! The next day I hobbled up and down the stairs, but I could not stop grinning. I felt so epic and I was already thinking about my next marathon. It had to be London. Growing up, my dad and I made a ritual of hogging the TV on marathon day, and the theme music still gives me goose bumps.

The following year, I won the runner’s lottery - a ballot place for London Marathon 2019! I was so excited. I thrived on the training, reaping the rewards of regular runs and strength sessions. I felt fitter and healthier than ever, so when I mentioned a lump in my neck to my Macmillan nurse, I wasn’t too worried.

But what happened next was a blur of ultrasounds, CT, MRI and PET scans, and ironically, the lump was just a cyst. But the scans had discovered a tumour on my left lung.

The concern was that my melanoma had spread, and the consultant prepared my husband and I for the possibility that this time, it may be untreatable. We were devastated and so worried.  

I was booked in for an operation at Guy’s in London to remove the tumour. The day before, I remember going for a run with Clara. As we stopped to take a selfie on a lung-busting hill we call ‘The Beast’, I felt so scared. Would I ever be well enough to run again?

The surgery went well, and afterwards, the surgeon joked as she ‘advised’ me not to run London Marathon in two weeks’ time. Hooked up to a morphine drip and a chest drain, unable to walk, I didn’t argue! Instead, I watched the race from my sofa, feeling tearful and terrified for my future.  

My results appointment proved to be quite a curve ball. The tumour was not melanoma, it was primary lung cancer!! I was in shock as the consultant explained my new cancer was early stage and curable. I was relieved and devastated in equal measure. I would need another operation at Guy’s hospital– this time to remove half my left lung and my lymph nodes – and the thought of revisiting invasive surgery all over again, whilst still in recovery, made me feel physically sick.

It was difficult for my family and I to process how I had developed two separate kinds of cancer by the age of 45. There is bad luck, but this felt unfair. I have never smoked; I eat healthily, and exercise is a huge part of my life. I was so far removed from a ‘typical’ case, that it was even a surprise to the oncology team.

Recovering from the first surgery was like being hit by a motorbike, the second by a 20-tonne truck. It was much more painful, and the shortness of breath was horrible. But my body bounced back well and as soon as I felt better, I began taking short walks with my family.

Every day, a little more optimism grew and returning to running seemed like a possibility. I got excited about future goals at a time when I really needed it - I was even booking in races while sat in bed in bandages!

A few weeks later, I received the news I was all-clear, and I had my consultant’s blessing to get back to running – it meant the world and I was so happy.

There is no information online about how to return to running after such extensive operations, so my husband and I tentatively tried short sessions. Every run-walk was a struggle. I now had a vastly reduced lung function and my breathing was full-on Darth Vader - I was so noisy, people would turn to stare at who was wheezing behind them! To begin with, I could only manage 30 seconds of running before I had to stop, and I felt like giving up many times.

But I had deferred my London Marathon place, and the thought of taking part in 2020 kept me going – that, and the love and support of my family and friends. As part of my post-cancer journey, I also decided to fundraise for Macmillan Cancer Support, pledging to run 100 miles of races before the end of December this year (


Macmillan provides vital support to so many cancer patients, and their families, every day. Once my scars had healed, they helped my husband and I pick up the psychological pieces and discuss our fears about either of the cancers coming back. A Macmillan counsellor also advised us how to speak with our two sons about my latest diagnosis. Telling older children is a big one, as they understand the true nature of cancer, so honesty was our best policy.

And my boys were there to cheer me over the finish line as I completed the Brighton Half Marathon in February this year – achieving a time just 14 minutes slower than my PB. Then Covid-19 happened, and the world suddenly stopped. Events were cancelled left, right and centre, and once again my marathon dream turned to dust.


Despite being classed as a ‘vulnerable’ person, running made me feel less anxious about my situation and I continued to train throughout lockdown. I am lucky to be only minutes from the open trails of the South Downs National Park, and I ran with my husband early in the morning to minimise risk. We also signed up to virtual 5ks, 10ks and a half marathon challenge to stay positive and keep morale going during a pretty bleak time. 

And guess what? I have run up ‘The Beast’ hill repeatedly these last few months, getting stronger with every rep.  So, whenever London Marathon does take place, I will be there, relishing every second and every mile - even when my legs are in agony and I feel sick on energy gels. I may be slower than before, and hills will never, ever be my friend, yet I appreciate what I can achieve with my amazing one and a half lungs - Kipchoge, you’d better watch out!




Hey! I am a freelance writer from Brighton and proud mum to Dylan (14 years) and Tate (11 years). My boys, and long-suffering husband Scott, are my inspiration and the best support team in the business – they even put up with me talking about Strava segments, black toe nails and pace times! For updates on my journey to London Marathon 2020, check out Instagram.

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