In July 2015 when my wee boy was two and my little girl was four months old, I found a lump in my breast when I was feeding my daughter. I got it checked and I was told after various tests that it was cancer. I had to stop breast feeding straight away which was the hardest part of the diagnosis.
I had a bit of a wait before my surgery as it was reconstructive and they had to make sure there were two surgeons available at the same time, a breast surgeon and a plastic surgeon. I had the surgery in November 2015 and then had chemotherapy, and that’s when I met many people at the Beatson who supported me. I was in and out of the center regularly. I got six chemo treatments over 18 weeks. When that was finished, life went on and went back to normal as it does with two small children, and I returned to work.
A year into completing a phased return to work, I found another lump in the side of my breast where the reconstruction work had taken place. As I was already in the system, I was seen by the specialists straight away and they said that they were pretty sure it was the same cancer, and that a tiny layer of tissue had been left that contained one rogue cell. Unfortunately, there was so option but to have surgery straight away again for a second time.
The medical team decided that alongside chemotherapy I would also start radiotherapy treatments. Following another 18 weeks of chemo, I was in the Beatson every day for 15 full treatments of radiotherapy. Today I am back at the Beatson every six months for radiotherapy with the rest of my checkups at Stobhill Hospital.
The second time around I wasn’t as scared of the process as I knew what to expect. Throughout my treatment I made sure to walk everyday – while receiving chemo there wasn’t a single day where I didn’t walk. After my chemotherapy had finished, I started running – and that’s when I met my friend Suzie Wong and started going to some of her fitness classes.
When I had surgery for the second time I had to stop running but continued to walk, so I think its fair to say I walked my way through my treatments. As soon as I was able to, I was getting back into fitness classes and running.
Running the London Marathon came about by chance – Suzie had said that she wanted to get into the London Marathon and encouraged us all to apply so if we got a place, she could do it for us. I applied as I thought there was nothing to lose. In October last year Susie found out she hadn’t got a place and neither had anyone else. After moving to a new house, my forwarded mail came a few days later and I found out that I had got a place.
I thought it was great news as my friend would finally be able to run the London Marathon. Then I read on the letter that places were non-transferable!
I wasn’t sure if I would do it so I just thought I would go ahead with it and pay the fee. When I started doing the training one of my good friends said if you’re doing this you should do it for something.
There are two guys at my church who are currently receiving treatment at the Beatson, one for t-cell lymphoma and the other for cancer of the throat. And I just thought, the Beatson generally treats so many people in the area, so why not? I set up the online page and once you go public, I feel like you’re committed!
It's been around two weeks since I started fundraising, and my target is £100 per mile which in total is £2,600. And already I am at over £2,000.
My husband has just bought my children t shirts saying, ‘My Mummy is training for the London Marathon’. It will be such an exciting time, my son doesn't know it yet, but he will be coming down to London to see me run the marathon.
I wouldn’t say cancer is a part of my life – it is part of my story. I am just getting on with living, there are aspects of my life which have been deeply affected by cancer but that has made me even more determined to continue and do things like the marathon. With the kids I am a bit more about making the most of each day – when they were tiny, especially the first time around, I genuinely thought that they weren't going to have a mum growing up, and they have. And I want the fact I am still here to be the best possible experience for them.
It has been an interesting four and a half years since my initial diagnosis – I have had immense support during my treatment. My mum and dad moved to a new house the day my chemo started for the second time. I find it hard to imagine what it has been like for them to live through it. If it was one of my kids, it would be horrific. But despite everything, my parents have been consistent with the kids which is something they needed while I was receiving treatment.
My mum is a retired minister so when I was off sick both times, she covered for me. I am also the chaplain of the local school and the staff there have basically been through this journey with me. I have been a chaplain for over 13 years, and they’ve been amazing as well. I was off work when Josiah started in primary one and I was still going through chemo. I was determined I was going to be there on the first day to take him in and they were there supporting me.
I hope that nobody that is reading this will ever suffer from cancer, but if you do, a place like the Beatson is vitally important. And if any of you are ever mad enough to run a marathon, I hope you do it for something worthwhile!
Throughout my journey I had a lot of support around me, and I had hundreds of people praying for me. I used to send out emails to a group of around 200 people about my thoughts and I was able to be honest about how I was feeling and my fears. Knowing that there were people there that weren't going to judge and were encouraging me to keep going helped a lot.
I don't think that you can fight cancer. But I think you can roll with cancer. I think if you talk about fighting, some people lose the fight. And it's not because they've not tried. It is entirely a unique journey.
When I went for my first surgery, I was terrified and the night before my friend Elaine bought me a watch with a second hand on it. She said, ‘you only need to get through the next 60 seconds.’
People say to you just take each day as it comes, but as a cancer patient sometimes even a day is too much, and you can't cope with a whole day. But you can always manage 60 seconds. And the number of times I have come back to that, and said to other people, you only need to get through the next 60 seconds. And again, it fits with the theme of just keep rolling on for the next short while. I often thought to myself I can't do 18 weeks of chemo; I can't do three years of this I can't do 10 years of medication. But I can take the tablet right now and forget about the rest for now.
Mindset is everything I think when coping with cancer and it is much easier when you break everything down into more manageable chunks.