Last week was Great British Week of Sport The campaign is intended to provide inspiration and help us all find ways to get active to boost our health and wellbeing. We are about to land in October, which is Breast Awareness Month. This blog, written by our co-founder Su, is a personal account of how becoming more active led to the discovery and successful treatment of breast cancer in 2018. If it hadn’t been for Couch to 5K the outcome could have been very different.
Runner… me? Friends that provided inspiration.
In 2018, I was counting myself very fortunate. I had a job that I enjoyed, a network of great friends and a loving family. Generally speaking, I was fit and healthy, did most things to lead a healthy lifestyle and had taken it upon myself to step up the exercise. During a trip to Eire with friends (both runners), I stated that I would “love to take up running”. But thought I was “passed it”. My friends pointed out my self-limiting beliefs. Within 3 months I had signed up and completed the Couch to 5K with my running buddy (husband). We were rather proud of our achievement and decided to step it up to 10K during the autumn.
How running saved my life.
Any of you that have taken up running will know that there are consequences. The odd toenail may have to be sacrificed and various muscles ache. So, when I felt breast tenderness and a lump, I thought that I just needed a better sports bra. Just to be on the safe side, I thought I would get checked by my GP, who reliably informed me I was difficult to assess as my boobs were ‘lumpy’ anyway. He referred me to a ‘one-stop clinic’ at St Helen’s and Knowsley NHS Trust. I had all the tests in one day and within three weeks of my GP appointment, I was diagnosed as having breast cancer and on a treatment pathway.
It was an emotional roller coaster. I will blog a little more about that and what helped me get through in the future. But for now, the focus is on ‘why get active’. I believe if I hadn’t started running, become more acutely aware of my physical health and body, I wouldn’t have gone to my GP. This would have delayed the necessary investigations and successful treatment.
We know the health and wellbeing benefits of being more active. Yet, finding the time and inspiration can be a struggle. The tips on the NHS Better Health website help to see that small changes can be achievable and really beneficial. The three that helped me:
- Track your progress – I never knew I was so competitive
- It’s better together – having an exercise buddy
- Find something you enjoy – running is great, find your own pace
Maintaining the habit
I’ve never regretted going for a run or long walk. I’ve been frustrated with myself when I haven’t. I’ve joined Strava, an App that links you to an online community for support, inspiration and encouragement. I would heartily recommend the Couch to 5K App. It seems to have inspired many during the pandemic to get out. If running is not for you, any small/regular amount of exercise has positive health benefits.
There are so many people to be thank. I’m hugely grateful to my fantastic family, friends and work colleagues who supported me through the treatment period and beyond. I’m especially grateful to all the health care professionals that were involved in my treatment, health care assistants, health care scientists (radiotherapy physicists), nurses, consultants, receptionists and all.