Despite unpleasant treatment side effects and surgery recovery time, Danielle persevered with her training. Now, 18 months after her diagnosis, she will be running the London Marathon for Breast Cancer Now.
I was told the lumps looked ‘suspicious’
On 14 March 2020, I headed out for my last long marathon training run - 22 miles! - in preparation for both the Manchester and London Marathons (both of which ended up cancelled due to lockdown regulations).
Two days later, I found some lumps in my left breast. I managed to get an appointment at my GP surgery, but was told I would have to wait at least three weeks for a scan. As I’m sure you can imagine, I was in a bit of a state by this point. The thought of such a long wait was agonising.
Thankfully, through my work’s private medical cover, I was able to get a sooner appointment at Harley Street in London. I had a mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy and MRI scan on one day, then went back the next day for a PET scan. I was told it looked suspicious.
Three days later, I was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive breast cancer.
My world fell apart
I remember thinking, ‘How can this be happening to me? I’m fit and healthy. I run and eat really well. Surely this must be a mistake!’ You hear the stats that one in two people will get cancer at some point in their life, but you never think it will happen to you.
I was initially so anxious about what was ahead of me, but then I had a really positive call with my oncologist. She explained that my cancer was treatable, but that I would need to go through 16 weeks of chemotherapy, a mastectomy and radiotherapy.
I went into fight mode. I knew what I had to face; I just had to get on with it and do what was needed. A friend who had previously been through breast cancer told me to take everything one day at a time, and that really helped.
Breast cancer treatment interrupted my training routine
I’ve been a keen runner for over 16 years and have run 14 marathons.
Because of my treatment, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to run anywhere near the mileage I’d run in the past, but I was determined to still get out and run when I could. Getting out for a 5k run a few times a week while I was going through chemotherapy felt great! It helped me maintain my physical fitness and was good for my mental health.
I recall one time when my husband Mark and I were out running and the heavens opened. I couldn't help but think that we were running through a physical storm as well as the emotional one going on in our life.
After my mastectomy, I was on a 12-week running ban. I had already decided by then that I was going to run the deferred London marathon in October 2021, as I needed time to recover from surgery and radiotherapy.
I also had to take six months' worth of chemo tablets after my surgery. I took my first ones on New Year’s Day 2021 and my last on 16 June 2021. Although I had started running a little bit further while taking the chemo tablets, I had to stop running during the last few cycles as the soles of my feet were so sore (a common side effect).
I decided to let my body recover before heading back out again.
Despite everything, I’m ready to run the London Marathon
So, my training for the London Marathon officially started at the end of June. If I’m totally honest, I wasn’t even sure at this stage that I would be able to complete the race. Every run was so tough, and I couldn’t imagine being able to cover the distance. Still, I persevered with my training plan, which consisted of a short run, a medium run and a long run, as well as a weekly bike ride and Pilates class. It hasn’t been easy.
Obviously, I don’t have the speed I had prior to all this. My long runs are at 10 min miles, instead of 8.5 min miles, which means I’m out there for a lot longer.
This marathon is not about pace, though - it’s about putting a finish line on what has been a hugely challenging 18 months in our lives and raising a huge amount of money for an incredible charity: Breast Cancer Now.
I will be running with my husband, who has been my rock throughout this whole ordeal, and we welcome donations from anyone who wants to support us on our journey.
If you've been inspired by Danielle and would like to run for Breast Cancer Now in the 2022 London Marathon, we'd love to have you on board!