Breast cancer lesson 182: The hardest part is taking the first step

When I think back to the days of active treatment for breast cancer, I don’t think about the life-saving surgery, the nights spent with a washing-up bowl by the bed during chemo, or the strange radiotherapy tattoos.

I think about the little details and the mini-milestones that reminded me I had a life worth fighting for.

I remember the sun shining the day I went for my first walk after surgery. I remember the cup of tea I was drinking when I got the call telling me we had seven embryos in the freezer. I remember the basket of bread I demolished the moment I discovered my taste buds had returned after chemotherapy (my poor friend didn’t get a look in). And I remember the little routines I worked out with my mum that made hospital days about vanilla milkshakes and tasty lunches.

I remember how little details could change the course of a day. And it’s these details I look for every day now.

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My first 10k

Ask me to pick out just one detail, however, and I’ll tell you about 13 July 2014 – the day I wore a Breast Cancer Care running vest for the first time.

Jackie's first 10k

Having learned to walk again three times in my life (and now with one hip full of metal and the other on the suspect list), I never thought I’d run a 10k. My running action is ungraceful and clunky, and makes small children laugh. Growing up, I was teased for the way I walked. I still am.

I started running during chemo, not because I thought it would be easy or because I thought I’d be good at it. I chose it because it would challenge me more than any other exercise.

I started running because I wanted to show cancer that it could take a lot of things – my hair, my right boob, my tummy fat (to create the new boob) and my dignity – but it would never take my smile.

I wanted to take control of my cancer diagnosis and running gave me that control.

On the day of my first 10k, with a bald head, super-glued stomach, PICC line in my arm, chemo drugs coursing through my veins and my acute oncology card in my back pocket (not to mention those dodgy hips), I was a runner in a crowd of runners, just trying to make a difference. It was my marathon (I likened training to running a marathon up a hill on cobbles with no trainers). I know my body was broken that day. But, I did it – and that’s all that matters.

Why I’m running the marathon for Breast Cancer Care

This incredible charity is responsible for so many of the little details that gave me a reason to smile during treatment. Their information booklets helped me navigate a sea of treatment decisions and pick up the pieces of my shattered life from the hospital floor on diagnosis day.

Their Headstrong service gave me the confidence to embrace my bald head.

Someone Like Me gave me the chance to discuss concerns I knew would never find their way into a 10-minute hospital consultation.

Younger Women Together put me in touch with like-minded people who I know will be friends for life.

They helped me live my life when cancer was busy trying to take it away. And, for that, I’ll be forever grateful. The great thing is, they still support me even now, two years on!

It’s in celebration of those little details that I will be on the London Marathon starting line this Sunday.

I never thought I’d make the starting line (and I’m not quite there yet). But Breast Cancer Care – and the amazing team behind the scenes – has given me the confidence to believe I can. And that’s half the battle.

Team Breast Cancer Care

The first step is the hardest

Running makes me feel alive – and I’m still just a beginner. Running puts me in control of my body, my happiness and my health, connects me with amazing people, and helps me change the lives of those affected by breast cancer.

It would be wonderful to think that anyone going through treatment could find something that inspires them to keep going and find a reason to smile.

Just opening the door and feeling the sun on my face was a positive step during the dark chemo days. A walk among the spring flowers was an amazing distraction from the hair loss and the feeling of nausea. A little jog (I used to go out for about 10 minutes) was always a great way to clear my head and put a spring in my step.

We don’t all have to run marathons. But by making small changes (taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking on the escalator, even getting off the bus one stop further away from home), we can all find a way back to ourselves.

So why not join me and my sticky-up hair and see just how far exercise can take you? I can tell you now: the hardest part is taking the first step.

Jackie after a half marathon

On the start line

When I’m standing on that Marathon starting line, I won’t be thinking about how far I’ve come – or the ridiculous distance I have to cover – but of the incredible people at Breast Cancer Care; the people up and down the country who dedicate their lives to making sure people don’t just survive breast cancer (for as long as their diagnosis permits), but they can thrive too; the people waking up to the reality of treatment every day; and the people doing what they can to move forward.

Thanks to Breast Cancer Care, we can all find the strength to keep going, one step at a time.

Good luck to everyone running for their own special reasons this Sunday.

See you on the other side!

If you have a few pennies to spare, I would love your support to help encourage me over the finish line! Click here to donate.

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