If you’re looking to take part in an inspiring event this summer, why not join thousands of women and girls who are powerfully uniting forces in the Cancer Research UK Race for Life? Women of all ages, shapes and fitness levels are running a series of 5k and 10k runs held at 230 venues across the UK.
Cancer UK is calling on all women to unite, fight back and proudly voice the 2013 campaign slogan, ‘Cancer, we’re coming to get you’. Each woman taking part is the heroine of her own story and has been affected by the indiscriminate nature of cancer.
Take Emma. She’s an avid runner and keen participant of Race for Life who has had a double mastectomy. When Emma’s symptoms first appeared at the age of 33, the doctor’s insisted her acute lethargy was due to depression. ‘But I told them I had lovely friends and family and that I was planning a trip to Barbados,’ says Emma. ‘There was no way I felt depressed.’ However, after two months of trying to convince doctors her symptoms were not due to depression, she was put on antidepressants.
As she didn’t have a lump, which is the most obvious sign of breast cancer, her diagnosis was harder to detect. She did have a sore nipple, thought to be ‘jogger’s nipple’, a common problem among runners where skin is irritated from rubbing against material, and for this she was prescribed a cream. And even though her half sisters had both been through breast cancer, it was not an obvious link for doctors. It took nearly nine months for Emma to get her biopsy, by which time scans revealed a 9.5cm mass in her right breast that had spread to her lymph nodes. ‘I was so angry,’ she says, ‘and both my husband and I were in shock.’
What kept her going during her lowest moments was her family. ‘They were fantastic,’ she says. ‘When my hair started falling out, my husband shaved it all off. He was tough for him to do, but he’s been incredible and I couldn’t have done it without him. As for the kids, you just want to live as long as you can, to see them through. Not being able to cuddle my daughter, who was two at the time, push her buggy or pick her up when she fell was particularly hard.’
Emma’s disarming honesty seems to have played a central role in the way she is dealing with cancer. Having lost her father at a young age, she says, ‘I always advise people to tell the truth, especially to children. It’s important to be honest with them. I always told my children the truth and I’ve never hidden my scars.’
Her advice to other women and what she wished she had done in her pre-diagnosis days was to be more aware. ‘Check yourself,’ she advises. ‘Look at the symptoms of breast cancer, properly, all of them, not just the lumps. I wish I’d insisted that my doctor take it further much faster, and not have delayed it by nine months.’
Emma exudes an unrelenting zest for life echoed not only in her energetic tone of voice, but in the things she chooses to invest her time in. She has fully embraced the breast cancer campaign’s message of ‘Don’t let it take over your life.’ Emma returned to work in October and, after her breast reconstruction last year, she and her husband renewed their vows in front of all their friends and family.
Exercise continues to play a vital role in her recovery. ‘By the time I finished radiotherapy, I was running and it didn’t take long to lose the two stone that I had put on. I was back into keeping myself fit. I love it. I also went skiing twice last year. I really want to run the London Marathon. I did a half marathon last year for charity and I’ve done the Race for Life for the past few years. I’m doing it again this year with my neighbour. I ran eight miles last week. If I can do that, I’m winning against cancer.’
Emma’s determination is a huge inspiration to many of us and is the reason why so many women raise funds and awareness by running for Race for Life each year.
Emma is supporting Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life 2013 in partnership with Tesco. Run, walk or sponsor. Enter now at raceforlife.org