Running after cancer

How Running Became My Therapy Post Breast-Cancer Surgery

In the past, people have always asked me, “Why do you run? Don’t you find it boring? It’s just putting one foot in front of the other” and my reply is always, “It’s so much more.” Running is not only a great form of exercise, whether on its own or combined with something else, but for me, it is also therapeutic and sometimes it’s all I think about.

In 2017 I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 27. After a round of testing, doctors’ appointments and more, I had a double mastectomy. Leading up to my surgery, running kept me positive and level-headed. I started running every day. It was my form of therapy to help me get through everything. If I found out bad news, I instantly went running after. If I had a doctor’s appointment that I was nervous about, I would run to that appointment and would feel so positive and strong walking into it.

One of the biggest questions I had throughout my diagnosis was, “When will I get to run again?” As some of us are told, it is suggested not to do any strenuous exercise for the first six weeks post-surgery (mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, expanders followed by implants) so I started to count down the days. Knowing that I could run in six weeks kept me motivated and strong. I started going on walks, eventually doing 8 km around my small town. The six-week point finally arrived and my partner and I went out onto my quiet street and I aimed to run 1 km. My worried partner watched me, with a huge smile on my face, run up and down the street. I hit the 1 km point and screamed with joy! I did it! All I could think is if I can run 1 km six weeks post-surgery, then nothing could stop me.

Running has changed so much for me post-diagnosis. Yes, I run to keep fit but I also run because it’s one of the top 10 things in this world that brings me joy. Of course, there were those moments where I thought having a major surgery would stop me from doing something I love but it hasn’t. In the last year, I started to sign up for races. In May 2019, I did my first 25 km trail race and on August 24th I ran a 50 km race. It was honestly one of the hardest things I have done, but, the not so elusive “runner’s high” is a real thing, so I pushed through and did it, coming 14th in the 50 km category. Just like running that first kilometre after surgery, crossing that finish line at 50 km felt so triumphant and all those feelings I had six weeks post-surgery came rushing back. I smiled and said, “Yup, I just did that!”

Running has helped me see the strong person I was during my diagnosis and after surgery. Since then, I mostly run solo but I love to bring my friends along with me, and the running community itself is extremely supportive. All of us have things that bring us joy in life, and I know running is one thing that will always bring joy to mine. – Jackie Carter

Want to learn how other Rethinkers are using running after their diagnosis? Click here.

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