There are many things I thought I would gain out of the rollercoaster that is breast cancer treatment. But, I confess, a pair of trainers wasn’t one of them.
I thought I would never be able to call myself a runner. I wasn’t built to run. Having hip dysplasia (shallow hips), a bit missing from my left leg as a child, and a new pelvis pinned with metal in my 20s, running for a bus was a marathon.
But, when you’re sat in a hospital consulting room at the age of 32 being told that you’re about to face months of treatment, toxic drugs and lose a breast (and gain a new one with your own tummy fat), running, and by that I mean taking back control, seems like a pretty good idea.
Little did I think, as I plodded along a country road with my dad, that I would run a 10k race with no hair (and a tube dangling out of my arm) before the end of chemo. Little did I think as I crossed that finish line, that I would ever have enough in the tank to tackle a half marathon just nine months later. And, little did I think that that half marathon would lead to a marathon and yet another pair of trainers. But it did.
Running means the world to me and I am still just a beginner. I chose to run during treatment because I wanted to show my body that it can take a lot of things – forcing me to learn to walk again in my 20s and stealing my boob in my 30s – but that it couldn’t define me. I chose running because I knew it would be hard. I chose running because I needed to find a reason to get out of bed and feel the sun on my face. I chose running because I wanted to feel alive at a time when my body had other ideas.
I’m now up to my third pair of running trainers (always Ghosts for me) and this pair has an awful long way to go!
It seems only fitting that running make an appearance in the life event I thought I’d never see. My partner of 13 years proposed to me on Christmas Day 2013, just three weeks before I was sadly diagnosed with cancer.
So that’s why, on 23 April at 7.30am on the Cutty Sark ship, we will be getting married before running the London Marathon. Then, after a quick rest (and hopefully a foot massage), we will be trekking part of the Great Wall of China for our honeymoon. All for two charities that are close to our hearts.
Yes, I will be getting married in trainers. Yes, there will be a running wedding dress (made for me by UK celebrity and professional ice skater) Frankie Seaman. Yes, the father of the bride is running too. And yes, there will be energy drinks instead of champagne.
From a non-runner to one getting married in trainers, I have come a long way in the last three years. My legs (and more recently my spine) know that this race will be the hardest one of my entire life. I know getting to the start line will be tough.
But, being able to help others find the strength to face another day and just keep going, is the greatest wedding gift we could ever ask for.
So, when you’re dusting off those trainers and getting ready for a cold January run, think not about how fast you’re going or how far. Think about the fact you’re out there giving your body and your head the best medicine this wonderful world has to offer.
And then, spare a thought for the wedding team running for their lives this April.
At least we’ve done the hardest bit – taking that first step!
Jackie helps run a UK publishing agency and spends much of her spare time writing, running and volunteering for six cancer-related charities following a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2014.