Like most things I say or write, this blog is an extension of my personality. The extent to which it reflects my own rather than my apparently academic personality has varied from time to time. Law has tended to feature in many posts, but I have been known to cut loose and write about other things, like politics or cancer. (The two are not necessarily related, although the latter is a political football I am acutely aware of.)
One thing this blog is not is a running blog, but I do plan to publish one blog post – this one – about my forthcoming London Marathon effort. Why? First, I am confident some of you are interested. Social media followers and other contacts have asked how I have been getting on with my running fairly regularly. Second, it might publicise my charity fundraising drive. More on that below.
What follows now is amended version of an article that appeared in Thursday’s Evening Express. That Aberdeen newspaper previously carried a story about my cancer diagnosis, after they picked up my blog from 28 August 2013.
My London Marathon story actually begins a few months before all that, in April 2013. Whilst getting on with my day-job, I decided to seek a fitness challenge and entered the online ballot for the 2014 Virgin Money London Marathon. I had taken on the Edinburgh Marathon a few years previously and I was keen to set myself another goal. Of course, I knew London hosted a prestigious and popular marathon and first-time ballot entrants were low on the pecking order in terms of being awarded a place, so I duly forgot about it and got on with my life.
Some five months later I learnt that, against all the odds, I had been successful in the London Marathon ballot. A happy tale, it would seem. Alas, my story has a twist.
On 22 August 2013, I was diagnosed with metastatic testicular cancer. That is to say, the cancer had progressed to other parts of my body, including my lungs. Cue lots of treatment. As such, when I learnt I had been successful in the London Marathon ballot, it would be fair to say I was not in great nick. So much for wanting a fitness challenge: careful what you wish for.
I have had many curious conversations with my oncologist since I met him in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary on that fateful day, but the one where I told him I had a place in the April 2014 London Marathon was one of the more memorable. Needless to say, he politely suggested I may not be match-fit for the run. He was right (thankfully he normally is). At that stage, I was not even halfway through my chemotherapy regime. My chemotherapy was followed by surgery, and I can confirm the retroperitoneal lymph node dissection (a pretty big abdominal operation) that I had in January 2014 would have eaten into my training schedule for April 2014 a bit. I deferred my entry for a year.
I wish I could say that time flies when you are having then recovering from treatment, but that would be a lie. By hook or by crook, somehow it is April 2015 and I am contemplating this year’s London Marathon. Gulp.
So what? Don’t get me wrong, at one level “Man gets cancer” is not much of a news story. People get ill all the time, or might even be born ill, and a few self-indulgent column inches in a newspaper or content on the blogosphere is not going to change much.
At another, it is a story everyone can identify with. People realise cancer is something that has affected a colleague, a friend, Taylor Swift’s mum or that nice lady who was in the Oxo adverts. Or perhaps it has affected you directly. If so, sorry for reminding you about what might have been a dark time, but I do think it is fortunate that people are able to talk about cancer in a way that they perhaps did not before. That can only be a good thing, when as many a one in two people in our longer-living population will develop cancer at some point in their lives, according to recent forecasts from Cancer Research UK. Removal of stigma, and the related benefit of early detection, is a key part of successful recovery. If you take nothing else away from this piece, take this: if you have any lingering suspicions about something, do get it checked as soon as you can.
Unfortunately, the treatment I had was all the more onerous because of my late diagnosis, but I am in no doubt that I am still one of the lucky ones. Fortunately, I am able to write this and (somehow) contemplate wheezing around 26 miles of London on 26 April. Needless to say, I am turning this into a fundraising exercise, and with the official charity of the marathon being Cancer Research UK that seemed a pretty logical fit to me. (There are many great local charities dealing with cancer in the north east and I am almost sorry to overlook them on this occasion, but I hope they will forgive me.)
Perhaps the fact that I am giving this a go might just make you ponder a donation to help contribute to Cancer Research UK, with online donation being available here. Heck, you might even enjoy reading my blog and be glad I am still here: far-fetched, I know. My full time job means I have never felt the need to ask for support for this blog. In lieu of support for that, a donation to people who deal with antisocial rather than social science would be appreciated.
As for how I have got on in training, it’s been bloody tough, and far tougher than I imagined it would be when I entered the ballot in the first place. All things considered, it is fair to say I was way above my fighting weight when my training really started at the turn of the year. Gradually building up strength as I padded around the block, then around a bigger block and then finally getting into the teens of miles for a run, whilst more than occasionally cursing a combination of cancer and my own inactivity, was not easy. That being the case, having a goal to get back into shape for has been fantastic, for mind and body.
Now I just need to put it all into practice in London. I will pop up an update after the run to let you know how it went.