Today marks the start of the Run 40 for Pancreatic Cancer UK. I have written about it in pretty much every post since I signed up for the challenge, so I am sure you are as relieved as I am that it has kicked off. “Maybe he’ll talk about it less now it’s begun,” you may be thinking, and in response, I say – NEVER. It is now the perfect time to write an entire post on it.
My target of £2000 has been hit today, which is crazy. Thank you so much to everyone who has sponsored me so far. My Pancreatic Cancer UK shirt has not arrived yet, but I will be repping it for the runs once it does. It feels great to run for a charity whose cause is directly affecting me. I’ve run a marathon for Cancer Research UK before, but I did not have much personal affiliation with them then. It feels very different running for a cause that is now directly plaguing my life. I really encourage you to support campaigns for pancreatic cancer as well as signing up for events with them, like the Run 40 campaign. They help raise essential funds for their work and make a huge difference in people’s lives. I’ve found both Pancreatic Cancer UK and Pancreatic Cancer Action to be supportive, engaged and motivated.
The Just Giving page can be found here for those looking to support my campaign. I will be posting updates on there as well as through the blog. I’m going to raise the target again, this time to £2500. I started out with a target of 10% of that number, so it is incredible that so much has been raised. Thank you so much to all who have supported me financially in this campaign and generally through the blog. It was on my mind throughout the run today and it motivated me so much. A friend drove past me on my run and texted me, saying that I had a very determined look on my face, which made me happy. I feel highly determined, and it is a direct result of the generous sponsorships, so I’m glad that is the image I am portraying to the world. “What is that guy looking so serious about,” the random motorists probably say. ‘CANCER’ is the answer they probably don’t want or care to hear.
It’s amazing how much can change in 3 months. I’ve gone from eyeing up the next ultra-marathon, being excited about a challenging new role at a new company and loving my newly purchased flat in London to living with my parents, fighting cancer and not knowing what the future holds for me. Of course, some of my future is predictable, similarly to before. I believe the saying is ‘nothing is certain but death and taxes’. The cancer version of this saying would need to add chemotherapy, hospital visits and more blood tests than hot dinners. My new life sees me engaged to an amazing person in Anna, spending far more time with my parents than I ever thought I would again and focusing on a new set of skills. I am also looking at going back to work on a small-time commitment per week, which should be a really positive change. So although things may be different, there is so much that I feel grateful and content with.
Today, I had a taste of my old life back, though. I was starting out on a new fitness challenge and feeling more motivated than I’ve felt since being diagnosed. The sun shone directly onto me as I set out on an old favourite route. I’ve been running in the area since I was about 18, so it holds a lot of nostalgia for me. More so today than ever, I found myself reflecting a lot on the situation that I now find myself in. Those of you who have gotten very into exercising in your life may know what I mean by the meditative state you can achieve. You don’t always hit it, but it is so blissful when you do. In my experience, I know when I have hit it because, at the end of the run, I can barely recall a second of what I was thinking about. My mind never goes completely silent like an actual state of meditation, quite the opposite. I find myself processing lots of thoughts and addressing them with a razor-sharp focus. It is when I feel most able to cope with all of the quandaries and complexities of my life. By the end, I struggle to recall any of the things I dealt with, but I know I feel better about them. It used to help me deal with problems at work, relationships and general fluctuations in mood. Today was one of those days where I seemed to hit that stride again towards the end, and it felt sweeter than ever.
There was a strange moment on the run where I remembered being in such a mood on a previous run. I couldn’t pinpoint the exact run, time or place. I felt connected to the thoughts in such a vivid way that I am sure it was on that same route, but I am well aware that this could be nonsense. On that previous run, I had been thinking about someone offering to tell me exactly when I died, how and where. I can’t remember why I was thinking about it, whether it was something from a film or perhaps a discussion with friends, but I remember thinking about it. At the time, I felt that I would want to know, and I remembered telling myself that it would allow me to enjoy my life to the fullest, even if it said something unexpected and unappealing.
Today, as I ran along a route well-trodden by me throughout my life, I felt that I had grown as a person as I remembered these thoughts. The truth is that at the time, I didn’t ever expect that I’d be dealing with such an awful cancer at such a young age. I thought I was too young, too healthy and too genetically lucky (there is very little cancer in my family) to suffer such a fate, especially at 28. It felt good to tell myself that I’d want to know what kills me and when because I covertly thought whatever killed me, it wouldn’t be until I was much older. Most people probably feel the same way who are in their 20’s and seemingly healthy; why would you assume otherwise? These days though, I have a genuine threat to my life. I’m currently classed as inoperable, and unless my tumour can shrink enough and away from the artery it has spread to, then I will die of pancreatic cancer. Even if this happens, I will need a very successful operation and recovery to keep the cancer away, as the reoccurrence rate is very high. Even with a very successful operation, there is probably a good chance it could come back. It all sounds very bleak, but it is the reality of pancreatic. I feel more understanding of the original diagnosis than ever. It was delivered in such a bleak tone. Until then, I had convinced myself that I was young enough to fight it and not be threatened by it whatever the cancer. This was the first time that faith had been well and truly shaken, and I have been pessimistic about the doctor who delivered it since. I don’t feel like that anymore; it is a shit cancer to have, and the news was delivered in a tone that represented this. He could have reminded me that I am young and very fit, though, just once. That’s what everyone else does, and it still makes me feel a little smug, even if I know it could count for nothing in the end.
Despite all of this, I feel happier and more accomplished than ever. As I ran, I thought about all of the people I’ve interacted with who have been affected by cancer. I thought about the posts I see on Twitter, the adverts for Cancer Research UK, and the grieving relatives I’ve met in support sessions. There are so many horrible things to focus on with cancer, but it is undeniable that it brings out an incredible amount of spirit in people. The support that my campaign has garnered already is proof of this. It allows me to feel grateful to the cancer for something, which feels like an important state of mind to hold in my situation. I cannot change my diagnosis, and being angry at the situation won’t increase my chances of survival. It may actually decrease them. There are people who are far more morally superior to me who have been diagnosed with cancer earlier in life, and morally inferior people to me who have tread many years longer without any health issues at all. It doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things; I am proof that cancer isn’t too fussy about who it impacts. No amount of exercise and avoiding red meat stopped me from being affected by it at a statistically bullshit age (not a phrase used by the doctors… yet).
So, I ran 5 miles today without stopping. Full disclosure: I did walk at one point. I was going up a hill and realised that it would be quicker and more efficient to walk. It marks the first time that I have managed to run a 5K without stopping, as well as being the longest distance I have run since being diagnosed. The challenge really has got me feeling determined. It also helped that the weather was warmer, so my throat wasn’t closing up due to the side effects of chemotherapy. Usually, in the cold, I am wrestling with my throat feeling tighter and pins and needles in the back of it; it’s very uncomfortable.
I think my tactics for the challenge are going to be: take advantage of week 2 in the chemotherapy cycle and get the majority of miles in then, and record my walks in week 1 if I am struggling to run. The aim is to run the entire 40 miles, but allowing myself to record walks in week 1 ensures I cover myself if I have a nasty cycle. Hopefully, they continue to be like this one, which has been mostly Ok. I have learnt first-hand that the cycles can be highly variable, though, so I won’t be betting on it.
It has been a great first day, and I can’t wait to challenge myself over the remaining days of the month. The next mini target is to complete a 10K. I feel much more confident that I will do this after today, especially if we get some more sunny days. I’ve been enjoying signing the blog posts off with a song. Today’s is a song I found recently which is super vibey. It is the soundtrack to the start of the challenge, and a month of good vibes and achieving things, no matter what news the progress scan brings on February 28th.