Discover how running is inspiring Sally come to terms with bowel cancer
Same old routine
As a working mum (previously at the Department for Work and Pensions and recently at the Disclosure and Barring Service) of two young children, convenience and processed foods were a daily part of my routine. I was above the “healthy weight” zone and although I had a gym membership, I felt like it was an achievement if I half-heartedly attended once or twice per week. I flirted with diets on a few occasions but not with any real conviction.
Coming to terms
In 2013, at the age of 37, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. I was lucky, as surgery successfully removed a section of my colon along with the tumour and I didn’t require any further treatment. My physical scars healed quickly but mentally, I found it difficult to come to terms with what had happened and was fearful of the cancer coming back. I was particularly anxious about not seeing my children grow up and felt that I had no control over the future.
Race for life
By chance, I saw an advertisement for “Race for Life” for Cancer Research UK and asked my sister if she would like to train and take part for sponsorship. She agreed, and I wouldn’t say that I immediately fell in love with running, but I did fall in love with the way I felt after a run and the confidence that came with it.
Building my confidence
Having trained for and completing my first 5k race, I started trying a variety of different exercises: yoga, boxercise, swimming, circuit training, aerobics classes etc. and it made me feel better. I started to rebuild my confidence in my own health and body. It was hard to fit it in, with work and family life, but I started to treat physical activity as a priority and made time for it.
Taking back control
I started to lose some weight naturally because of being more active, but I also developed an interest in nutrition and started reading more about it. I made changes to our family meals and reduced the number of processed foods that we ate. I felt like I was taking back some control and teaching the kids a valuable lesson.
I now plan my meals for the week ahead and try to cook from scratch as much as possible. I am much more mindful about what I want my family to eat and I have developed a good relationship with my slow cooker. I always cook more than I need, so that there is something in the freezer if required.
Dealing with the difficult times
Since my surgery, I have had a few scares as a result of scans which have resulted in periods of anxious uncertainty. But exercise and my new lifestyle has helped me to deal with those times better than I would otherwise have done.
I have now completed several running races including the “Pretty Muddy” obstacle course for Cancer Research UK and a 10k for the Stroke Association and am considering taking on a half marathon this year.
Being a role model
However, the real achievement for me is how exercise and eating healthily makes me feel. I can’t completely control whether my cancer will return, but I can make healthy choices and that makes me confident that I am doing what I can for my own cause. I also feel like I am being a good role model for my children. They have recently started taking part in Park Run with me and I hope that they develop the same love of exercise as I have.
I hope that my story inspires people who may be struggling with fears or anxieties to try exercise and activity as a remedy. Running may not be your thing but try different things and find something that you really enjoy and want to include in your daily routine. For me, variety is key, I don’t love running enough to do it three times per week, but I like lots of different activities that I can happily commit to doing once each in a week.
To sum it all up, I love the feeling when I try clothes on and they fit well. I love it when I finish a race or lift heavier weights in the gym or hold a yoga pose for longer than I have managed before. But most importantly, I feel better in myself and at 42, despite having had cancer, I am probably the fittest and happiest that I have ever been.
Congratulations Sally on your awesome inspire me journey.