Prior to 2018, Emma wasn’t particularly physically active, other than walking her dog most days. She always tried to eat well but had never used a gym or been to a fitness class before.
In September 2018, Emma found a lump in her breast so she visited her Doctor and on 10th October she was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Emma decided from the get-go that her approach was going to be to keep life as normal as possible, and to just keep going.
Quite quickly she found herself on a ‘treadmill’ of hospital appointments whilst her treatment was being sorted, followed by 4 months of chemotherapy, followed by surgery and radio therapy in April 2019.
“When I got the diagnosis, I just thought, right, let’s get this done and I took one day at a time. My mantra was not to google anything, but I did read Deborah James’ Bowel Babe’ and listened to You, me and the Big ‘C’ podcast and I found these very inspirational.”
Her husband Russell, was incredibly supportive throughout the whole process as were her two children, Emily and Josh, who are now both at Uni.
“Russell had to tell our children the news over the phone, and they were both incredible, they followed my lead a little bit but they were so mature about the whole thing. I was fortunate enough to be able to work throughout my treatment and only had 2 weeks off following the surgery, but my attitude was to get up and get going every day and that worked for me.”
Whilst Emma was having her chemo treatment, she had read that there were some benefits of doing exercise so she thought she’d like to try parkrun, even though she had never been a runner before in her life. So between surgery and radio therapy she first went on a guest pass to Abbeycroft’s Bury Leisure Centre, so that she could begin with walking or running on a treadmill ahead of having a go at parkrun.
“I was very self conscious when I first went into the gym, with no hair at all and I was extremely anxious.” I just thought that everyone would be looking at me when I started exercising, but it didn’t take long for me to realise that no-one was looking at me, and that people were just getting on with their own thing.”
“I couldn’t run on the treadmill to start with, so I just walked”. “But then I started to go to the Body Balance and yoga classes as well and again I felt so much more comfortable doing these than I ever thought I was going to”. Eventually I got the confidence to actually run on the treadmill and that was a really big thing for me.”
In July 2019, Russell and Emma went to do their first parkrun in Nowton Park, Bury and she didn’t know quite what to expect.
“I still felt very self-conscious as I had very little hair, and I did feel like everyone would be watching me, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.”
“Everyone just does their own thing – walk, run, jog or whatever you want to do, anything goes and we loved it from the very first run. You start chatting to people each week, so you start to get to hear other people’s stories or not, and so parkrun has become embedded in our lives, and we’ve hardly missed a week since”
At parkrun, Emma also met Liz O’Rourdan, a breast cancer surgeon, who had had breast cancer herself and she had written a book .
“Liz told me about 5k Your Way, an initiative which is part of the MOVE charity, and asked me to be an ambassador which I’m so happy to do. We are trying yo target and help anyone with cancer or family members of cancer patients, to come and try parkrun. It’s so good just to chat to other people who totally understand what you and your family are going through, and whether it’s just walking it or running it, or purely for the social side and a cuppa afterwards, we know that we can support people in such a positive way.”
“I would encourage anyone in that position to visit the website and find your nearest group.”
Emma is currently in remission and is still using a mixture of gym and fitness classes at Bury Leisure Centre, as well as parkrun, and she admits that having Russell come with her to the gym has been a massive motivation for her.
“It would be much easier not to go if we didn’t encourage each other, but we do and we always feel better for going. I definitely feel more energised once I’ve exercised, and although I still have days where my legs feel like lead, I push through, and I leave feeling very proud of myself. Abbeycroft has played a big part in my recovery. I love the atmosphere in the gym and the huge range of classes from yoga to body combat, and together with my weekly runs, I can fit everything in to my routine.”
“I’m determined to keep a level of fitness so that if I get a recurrence of the cancer, and I can’t control that, I will stay healthy and I’ll stand a better chance of getting through any more treatment that I may or may not need.”
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