For anyone that supports Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research I suspect I have a rather familiar reason for supporting the charity. Beyond hearing the odd statistic on the news, I hadn’t really engaged with cancer until a close family member was diagnosed with the disease. My father was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2008 and initially was given a good prognosis. Sure enough he entered remission but a couple of years later the disease came back and never left him. After a final two month spell in hospital he died in March 2012 at the age of 64. A once in a blue moon cell mutation had allowed his lymphoma to morph into a violent leukaemia and stay two steps ahead of even the most powerful drugs. In a bizarrely cruel twist of fate my grandfather died on exactly the same day, also of blood cancer. More recently my aunt has also lost her life to the disease.
A few months after my father’s death his doctors met my family and I to explain what had happened. After a long discussion we inevitably hit a point where the doctors couldn’t answer any more of my questions simply because we’d reached the limit of medical science’s knowledge. I remember a reply to one of my questions being along the lines of ‘well if we knew that, we would be able to cure the disease’.
So what if we could cure it? It was the search to answer that question which first drew my family and I to start fundraising for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. Since then a family friend has completed a Bikeathon and my sister’s partner has run a half-marathon. Now it’s my turn to step up to the plate by running the 2014 Brighton Marathon.
Although a keen sports fan, my legs and arms could never keep up with my ambition on the football pitch or the tennis court. But I figured a marathon was a significant sporting achievement that was within my grasp. I just had to put the effort in.
Having now nearly completed my training schedule if there’s one word I would use to summarise the training it would be ‘annoying’. Don’t get me wrong, there are great moments. On a sunny day when the adrenaline first hits your system you feel like you can run forever. I’m probably the fittest I’ve ever been in my life, plus I’m sure that, all being well, when I cross the finishing line I will feel a great sense of pride and achievement. But most of the time my training runs have been cold, dark affairs. Some have been painful and I can’t say I’ve looked forward to a single one of them. What I can say is (with a 99.9 degree of certainty) this will be my first and last marathon.
But one thing I now know is that running a marathon is not is difficult, at least not comparatively. Watching a close loved one die of such a painful and traumatic illness as blood cancer is the most difficult thing I have had, or will ever have to do. If I’m ever facing a difficult moment at work or having to force myself to run one more lap of the park on a frosty January morning, I can always think back to the end of March 2012 and know that in comparison it’s easy.