“Training” for surgery

This past weekend I’ve started exercising in earnest (and within my current abilities). It’s feeling good to be doing it and is making me feel like I am strong again (especially this morning when I ran a kilometre), but it makes me think yet again about how I have a lack of ready resources for participating in these things.

It’s silly stuff, like turning to my running/walking app and having a look at the training plans…the obligatory couch to 5k, half marathons, marathons, etc etc… and for me…

For me, it is training for surgery. I have a provisional surgery date (26th November), and when I go running/walking, it is building up my strength to make me as strong as possible, and when I reach that date, everything stops (for a little while) and when I start again, it will be from scratch.

This isn’t a complaint – of course I understand that people generally are training for runs… I just as silly as it sounds, consistently find myself wishing that cancer was a bit more ‘fun’!

Is that even possible?

(I know a good friend of mine who had breast cancer not so long ago habitually stayed away from forums because she found them too depressing – I can understand that, but I also find myself wishing there were magazines and communities that gleed about yummy recipes and how proud they felt for walking an extra 5 minutes that day.

I don’t know how other cancer patients feel – the only ones I’ve really spoken to are the ones who receive chemo at the same time as me, and to be honest, that’s generally about 15 minutes of conversation đŸ˜‰

So really, I’m grumbling without doing anything to change things!

Diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian cancer and who I am as a patient

I feel like the headline of this is enough of a trigger warning for what’s about to come that I can just plunge in and talk about stuff.

Firstly – despite this only being the second entry in a blog intended to be about running and questing for health as a plus size individual, I am sure you will understand when I say this now needs to deviate from running and focus on simply being a quest for health! If I need to change the domain name later, I will, but for now, it still makes sense to me as a concept and I’ll post about that later.

Onto the point!

Hi! I am a Stage IV ovarian cancer patient. It has been an eventful couple of months – really an eventful year, as late 2017 was when my health started to go down, but only the past 3-4 months that I’ve known something was genuinely wrong with my body.

If you are reading this as somebody who doesn’t know the story of how I reached this point, I am a 37-year-old plus-size geek who loves food, stories and the beautiful outdoors. I am also an immigrant from New Zealand who has lived here for eleven years. This paragraph contains all the parts that I believe are most pertinent to me as a human being.

That’s who I am as a person … who am I as a patient?

I am very young for an ovarian cancer patient. The advanced stage is less surprising, as ovarian cancer is rarely diagnosed early. I am actively using my geek status and love of stories to formulate a fantasy warrior narrative around myself. I’m in a weird place with food – not entirely negative, but a lot of it has become more scary for me. I am SO GRATEFUL that as somebody with indefinite leave to remain, I qualify for treatment on the NHS. I miss my family a lot at the moment and am having to trust them to keep themselves strong whilst I’m on the other side of the globe. And lastly, I am working hard to get this into remission and pick up the life I’ve wanted with my partner, hiking and exploring the beauty of this country and the larger world.

More than anything else, I just feel strange that after a life of being overdramatic, I’m now faced with something that actually is somewhat of a big deal?

…if you did come to this post new, it may be quite an introduction to me.
Here’s the introduction to the blog.

For as much and as long as I am able, I want to talk about ovarian cancer. I want to talk about what I am doing as a person, first as a patient, and then when I become a person in remission, to keep healthy. I want this to be food and fitness. I want to talk about the beautiful things that I encounter, the kindness in humans, the hope.

I don’t want to ghost out on this blog – it was intended to be a blog about my life, and I am very much still here, alive and kicking.

…As a postscript, if anybody in a similar position to me happens across this…I don’t care how good or bad it looks for us – it’s irrelevant. What matters is who we are. We are warriors.

My first 10k (and what running means to me)

If you’re reading this blog, odds are high that you already know who I am – nevertheless, let me try to summarise:

I live in London, I am a plus-size runner. I am also a geek (predominantly of the videogaming and tabletop roleplaying variety, with a dash of boardgames), love cooking, hate emotional eating (and working on defeating it), am a member of Slimming World, and am agender (I don’t identify as a man or a woman). It’s plausible that all these things may be mentioned at moments during this blog.

In the main, this is about my journey to becoming the strongest me, physically and mentally. I’m rather emotional about just how far I have come in both these ways over the past year.

A big part of that was to start thinking of myself as a warrior. To be a warrior is not a pretty thing. There will be times you are victorious and there will be times you struggle and fall. But as long as I am living and breathing, I want to get up and keep fighting.

This is what brought me to sign up for the 10k at Crystal Palace today.

You see, whilst I am signed up to run my first half-marathon in late September, I have thus far only done parkrun at my local park (which I love), and my training sessions on my own before or after work (as well as short runs with colleagues during lunchtimes twice a week).

This was going absolutely fine until Thursday last week when I went on a run early before work and ended up being mugged. I know, right? That’s not something that should happen to anybody who is going out and exercising to feel good about themselves.

I didn’t go out and run that weekend. And other than a short run at lunchtime on Tuesday, I didn’t do any other runs. But I knew I needed something to make me feel strong again – I needed a ‘win’. So I found a 10k that is only a short train ride away and I packed my bumbag and off I went.

My journey to 10k

On the train platform, a lovely woman stopped me and said “Hey! I didn’t realise you lived here!” – my normal assumption in any given situation is that I have forgotten a face… so I went along with it, until it became clear that she’d mistaken me for somebody else. Never mind, I got to have a lovely chat on the train with her about her first aid training and career as a BSL signer, and about my running. Then I got off, headed to the park and the event village, and drank water slowly while waiting for time to pass until it began.

I really like the way runthrough do things – they had a personal trainer leading people through a warmup routine (I just danced and did my own thing) and then we all lined up – faster people at the front, and just as with parkrun, people with higher times towards the back.

And we were off!

My thing with running is to go as slow as I possibly can. After having whittled my average time for 5k down from 45 minutes to 39 and a half, I am still twice the duration of fastest runners. So I try to switch off from people passing me and just focus on smiling and running, smiling and running – then I see a small boy crying because he fell while his dad comforts him – I pause to check he is okay, and then I get back to it…kinda grateful for the momentary rest.

I was struck by how beautiful the course was – they wound it around the ponds with the dinosaur statues, up and down slopes, through a little bit of woodland – gorgeous. But long. Oh my goodness so long. My normal parkrun is three laps of a section of park, so I’m used to passing the same things again…here, it felt like running for ages before reaching a new checkpoint. The highlight was at about 3.5km when I passed an icecream van and a bunch of picnickers – they all cheered and whooped as I passed.

Then I reached the moment of truth – the part where you either stay to the left to do the next lap, or you point to the right to finish your 5k. With runthrough, that is when you choose.

And I chose my win. I stayed left. I kept going.

I reached the 6k flag – the maximum I’ve ever run before. I kept going. Every time I passed a marshal, every time I passed an arrow, I told myself “This is the last time I see this place”.

I tried to say to myself “Just pretend you haven’t run that far” and quickly realised I needed to change that to “Come on! You’ve run so far! You are so strong!” – I knew I could finish it and I just needed to keep going no matter what.

Then some of the most amazing things started to happen. The marshals at this point were far apart. I couldn’t see any runners in front or behind. (Indeed, I presumed correctly that I was the last runner). There were a few moments that the course pulls alongside a later part of the course and I got to shout words of encouragement to those 20 minutes in front of me and many shouted that encouragement back… but I was ‘alone’ on the racecourse.

But not alone in the park.

I started passing families who would point and cheer – the tiny little girl in a sunhat and dress jumping up and down in the air, clapping rapidly and shouting “Keep going!”

The father sprinting around with a three wheeled stroller and a toddler fast asleep inside it, who I passed three times – a nod, a hello, a grin.

More families, and most moving of all for me, a row of four girls ranging from about 4 to 14, all shouting and cheering for me.

Not a single one of them cared that I was running long behind everybody else – they saw somebody who was running a race and still going, and they cheered for me, and I know they meant it.

At the end, the marshals came up with me and kept saying to keep going – at the end, I wanted to cross by myself, so I dug deep and found my sprint and I kept going – I had to hesitate to pull up my leggings over my knickers. I saw a race photo later where my lower teeth were pulled up over my upper lip into a gurn. But I was running so fast and they were cheering. And then I got my water, got my medal, and I went home to where my partner had wine and cheese waiting.

On the way out, I met up with a woman who had been near me in the 5k – she pointed me out to her kids and told them I’d done the full 10k. I told them I’d see them next time.

On my way to the station, a young mum holding her little girl said “See Caroline? See the medal?”

I ran 10k today.

What does it mean to me to be a runner? It means thinking you can’t do something and then doing it anyway.

My first bling

10k at Crystal Palace runthrough.co.uk