I’m not new to marathon running, having covered the distance 15+ times in the last four years and I must admit, I do like a challenge. However, running 12 marathons in as many months is even a step up for me. Why do I feel so passionate about the work of the Eve Appeal and why run 12 marathons when one or two would do?
Nothing shrinks and at the same time expands your world quite like a cancer scare. The moment you find out there’s even a remote possibility you may have cancer, no matter how reassuring the doctors are or how often you’re told that “it”, the suspicious looking cyst in question, could be harmless, your world gets smaller. This is the situation I surprisingly found myself in in September last year and it cut out the noise; some things became clearer whilst others fell away. I went from one speedily arranged appointment to the next, navigating not only my own emotions but also those of the people I chose to let in. And whilst my world did shrink, putting into focus the things and people who are truly important to me, my world also expanded.
I was now part of a new community whether I wanted to be or not. Part of a group of people who find themselves on cancer charities’ websites, day or night, reading up on diseases we knew of but that always seemed so far away. I read of symptoms and risk factors, all the while thinking that not all things listed matched my own symptoms and surely I’m too young, fit and healthy to have this: cancer. I don’t feel unwell enough. But cancer doesn’t discriminate and it also doesn’t care that I’m eating healthily or run marathons. No, after all, I found myself sitting in the consultant’s office just like many did before and no doubt will after me. In fact, my recent expansion of knowledge means I now know that 58 women receive a gynaecological cancer diagnosis every day. That’s 290 women by the time we finish our working week of daytime small talk and night time research. I also learnt that 21 die of a gynae cancer every day. Rather naive really I ever thought I wasn’t in with a chance.
I received outstanding care from start to finish. From the first visit to the GP, when I mentioned abdominal pains interfering with my running, to laparoscopic surgery at the local hospital and the news that all is well. “It” really was nothing to worry about, I was free to heal up and move on. I was one of the lucky ones, the one that got away. Trouble is “getting away” is easier said than done.
Physically healed I resumed long distance running, desperate to complete one more marathon before the year was up and doing so five weeks post op with a new found motivation to strive for change. Because mentally I hadn’t yet left anything behind. Ovarian cancer is often described as a silent killer. Some of the symptoms are the same as those of less serious conditions like IBS or PMS and therefore often overlooked, resulting in a delayed trip to the GP, late diagnosis and poorer outcomes. I would urge anyone to get to know their bodies, track periods and symptoms so you can recognise and report changes. Being able to tell the GP that something isn’t normal or a new symptom for you, however common it may be for other women, will give you and them the confidence something may need further investigation.
I continued to run during this time, right up until the day before surgery. A gentle reminder that for now, at least, this was still under my control; my body capable yet acutely aware that the length of my break from running post surgery would depend on the surgeon’s findings. Out of my control.
So why am I pushing myself, running 12 marathons? Simply, because I can. Because being fit, healthy and able to run is a privilege. So is raising awareness and funds for Team Eve. This year around 7500 women will find themselves in the same situation I was in last year, going through blood tests, scans, consultations and surgery but with a very different outcome. I was lucky not to be diagnosed following investigations but the experience was enough to motivate me to run and fundraise for education, research, support and prevention. I want to see change and I’m willing to play my part in making it happen. That might just mean running harder and longer than before.
You can support Sophia and donate to The Eve Appeal on her fundraising page.
If she has inspired you to take on your own challenge in 2020, you can view our sports and challenges HERE.