Why I run
Looking back at the Edinburgh Marathon 2015
Looking back at the Edinburgh Marathon 2015
When I signed up to run the Edinburgh Marathon I didn't know which charity I'd be running for. I'd wanted to run the big 26.2 for several years and after failing to get a slot at London I opted to go across the border. Mum lives in Edinburgh so I'd be sure of at least one supporter on the day!
I hadn't started training when my twin sister Hannah fell ill. I remember leaving work early when she came down with pneumonia driving to see her in Lincolnshire where she lives less than 2 hours away from Norwich where I am. "What 28 year old gets pneumonia?" I asked colleagues with a nervous smile. When her chest x-ray showed a mass (a word which can silence a room) her medical education kicked in (she's a vet) and she knew something was seriously wrong. The rest of the family tried to be upbeat as we climbed the walls waiting for test results.
She'd asked all the doctors she'd seen up to this point what they thought the tests would show. "Lymphoma" was the reply each time. They were right. After the diagnosis everything started to speed up. Before we knew it Hannah had started chemotherapy treatment and was coming to terms with having cancer in her body. It was something she did with dignity and strength that I still can only marvel at.
In parallel with the hospital appointments, days of sleeping post treatment and glimmers of normality in her "good weeks" when she continued to work, I started my training. It kept me sane. I decided straight away that I would run for Leukaemia and Lymphoma research. Doing so made it possible for me to talk about what was happening. I took time off work to be with Hannah during her chemotherapy and ran all around her Lincolnshire village with Poppy her partner Richard's black Labrador. When I came back to Norwich people didn't just ask about her- they asked how the running was going. It was like a safety blanket I would hide in every time I got scared that Hannah was getting weaker and that she wasn't going to be able to manage the drugs they pumped into her every fortnight.
It also kept me honest. Every time I wanted to sleep in or walk up a tricky hill I would think about the fight going on in Hannah's body and it pushed me on. I thought about all the money I would raise to make sure all the other people like me who saw someone they love hurting because of this disease had a better chance of seeing them well again. Hannah had Hodgkin Lymphoma. Once she was diagnosed a plan swung into action. The doctors knew what to do. They said "this is treatable". It was hard to believe because when you hear cancer your heart sinks. It was hard to believe because people think a cancer diagnosis is the right time to share their stories of people they know with a cancer at bit like yours (DO NOT DO THIS- especially if the story ended with the person dying).
But the doctors were right. The chemotherapy was gruelling and turns your body into a war zone- but it was working. That kind of encouragement made the 12 treatments Hannah endured possible.
The morning of the Marathon was perfect. The weather forecast had swung from heavy rain to sunny spells but I knew I'd done the training. My whole family had turned out including Hannah. I saw them at about mile 4 and again at 24. It's fair to say I wasn't moving quite as freely as I had been by then.
There were a team of us running for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research and it was a really lift to see another runner wearing the neon yellow vest! When I saw them I thought about the person who spurred them onto run this daft distance- their Hannah. I hoped it was making them feel better in the way it was me.
The 70 or so runners who took part in the Edinburgh Marathon Festival raised more than 40 thousand pounds for Leukaemia and Lymphoma research.
Running for me though was much more than a good way to support the charity. It gave me the strength to support my family. Doctors decided that Hannah's treatment was finished at the start of June. We say she's "better" but I think the medical term is metabolic remission. She's stronger every time I see her.
Hannah received excellent care from a skilled team who had the knowledge and the drugs to save her life. Something that with enough funding for research and trials is a possibility for all diseases.
I hope for a time that all blood cancer diagnosis are followed by the phrase "we know what to do"