In support of his mum and Breast Cancer Now, Oliver and his team have a goal of raising £12,000 by running 5km every single day from the 1st to 25th December.
Cancer feels unlucky and cruel
The cloud of breast cancer has hung above our family for over 25 years.
My mum and her sister were diagnosed within two years of each other in the 1990s, and it was then that my connection with the disease began.
When people are going through treatment, that cloud is very prominent, palpable and plain to see. Those are often the times support floods in; an abundance of flowers, offers of support and cups of tea. In the grand scheme of things though, that cloud is often more subtle, insidious and hidden. It casts its shadow psychologically more than physically. It makes people feel every ache or pain might be something serious. It sometimes makes people feel they are never truly safe ever again. And the human mental state benefits from safety more than anything.
Breast cancer is especially emotive
I still remember that sense of fear I felt when I was a 12-year-old boy faced with the possibility that my mum might die. It was that feeling that spurred me on to become a doctor. To want to fix things. I even thought about being a surgeon at one point... but my lack of dexterity and skill scuppered that idea. I’m now a GP and, rather than dealing with the cutting edge of cancer treatment, I get a reward from supporting families in a more peripheral and holistic way.
I understand there is something specific to breast cancer that makes it so emotive. Perhaps because it affects young, otherwise well people. However, I suspect the emotions can be generalised and extrapolated to every life-changing disease. I like to think in some way that experience has made me a better doctor. It’s certainly made me a more empathetic person.
Support for us snowballed
When mum was diagnosed recently, a sense of passivity, helplessness and loss of control came flooding back. We therefore wanted to do something to help and show our support. To try and grapple some semblance of control from within the grip of cancer. We initially assembled a group of eight friends and family. However, as word spread the enthusiasm for support snowballed and we now have 18 people taking part.
Running 5k a day during the cold and busy winter period felt like a good challenge to not only raise awareness over a sustained period of time, but also to act as a metaphor for the attritional nature of cancer. It’s not about having surgery and it all being done with. There are months of appointments, treatments and complications you may have to face.
I think (and apologies for the massive gender generalisation here) men show their support better by doing things. We’re sometimes not very good at talking about or listening to problems. We like to feel we’re fixing it. That doesn’t mean we care any less. It just means we show our support in different ways. Raising money provides an avenue for this and I think that’s why so many people have taken part with such gusto.
Fundraising is a humbling experience
We’ve all been spurred on by the fact that, no matter how tired your legs are or how creaky your knees feel, it’s not a patch on what those going through breast cancer treatment experience on a daily basis.
I’m hugely proud to work for the NHS. Our nation simply can not comprehend what life would be like without it as we’ve never lived in that reality. However, research and innovation can feel pressured. That’s where Breast Cancer Now comes in. It provides the research that drives improvements to allow the NHS to deliver the best care.
Being involved in the #125k2xmasday has personally been the most humbling experience of my life. From lifelong friends that remember when mum went through treatment the first time to neighbours who have only met her recently at the school gate, people have stepped up and been there and that feels incredible for me. More importantly though, this has given mum something positive to focus on and I have no doubt that in some way that has aided her recovery. I hope it’s made her feel we’re holding her hand.
Raising money brings a sense of community
I would say to anyone who is looking to raise money, do something that puts you out of your comfort zone. It needs to be difficult and agitating. Raising money as a team helps you get through those hard days. It brings a sense of community. It delineates and crystallises everything that is good in the human spirit.
The money will raise will go some way towards creating a future for people with breast cancer. Please donate via Just Giving.
If you would like to do some fundraising of your own, take a look at how you can get involved.