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London Marathon inspiration

On the 18th August 2016 my mother was diagnosed with stage IV (metastatic) breast cancer, which spread initially to the bone, then her liver, and then finally her brain. For any readers that might not know - I certainly didn't all those months ago when I asked my mum to close her ears while I asked the doctor how long she had left before she went to a better place - metastatic breast cancer is when breast cancer cells spread to other parts of the body, most commonly the bones, brain, lungs, or liver and while treatable, it currently cannot be cured.

While breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK with 54,900 new cases being diagnosed every year, that’s 150 each day, or 1 person being diagnosed every 10 minutes, my mum was one of what is thought to be 35,000 people in the UK living with incurable breast cancer.

In April I set out to run the 2019 Virgin London Marathon in the name of the 35,000 who do the impossible day in and day out and my mother who passed away on December 11th 2018. Those close to me will know that I quite like a challenge, particularly when it is 'phys' related. They will also know that I have an endless optimism which is typically backed up by the quote, 'You are never out of the fight!' Despite my mum hating me calling her a 'warrior', she was a living testament of this mentality and not just for putting up with me for twenty-four years, but rather for having overcome all odds being told when she was first diagnosed in 2016 that she had just one year left.

With my mother and the other 34,999 in mind, who do the impossible every day, I set myself an impossible target - welcome to the mindset my family has to put up with. The target to achieve, or rather not to achieve (bear with me) was a sub 02:50:00 marathon.

I initially came up with the idea of running a 2h49m marathon in May 2018, eleven months before the Marathon, while I was bedside watching mum undergo a six-hour blood transfusion (that was exactly my thought - I could definitely have done with one of those, but for some reason the doctors weren’t so onboard). This idea, however, was quickly put to bed, with my mother being ‘absolutely horrified’ at the thought of being in the limelight. In October that year my mother exhausted the last of her treatment options and with time running out she had a change of heart upon the realisation of how little success metastatic cancer research was having, and so she gave me her full support on the basis of one condition: that the entirety of the funds we raised would go towards metastatic breast cancer research, ‘so that one day others have hope and don't have to endure what she has had too’! And that was my mum for you: the kindest, the bravest, the strongest and the most loving person I knew.

While my brother was perhaps right when he said at the very beginning of all of this, you know John, you can't just do marathons and run away from this', I wanted to run towards it on behalf of my mother, because I promise you she would if she could of (now you know where I get it from), for the 35,000 who get told there is no hope and so I decided to replicate just a fraction of the battle they face each day, whereby the clock is set against you from the outset. So while at the time I was a healthy 24 year old (despite having hips of a 65 year old – I’ve already had double hip surgery) physically capable of achieving a sub 2h50 marathon at some point in my lifetime, I was not with just five months of training. Those closest to me will have known just how difficult that would have been for me to admit. They would have also known, that I would still do everything in my power from that day onwards until I crossed the finish line to achieve that goal.

And so ultimately it was this thinking that led me to ask family, friends, and strangers alike to join the 35,000 doing the impossible and help me raise £35,000, of which 100% would go towards a brand new metastatic breast cancer research project that Action Against Cancer are funding at the Imperial Centre for Translational and Experimental Medicine.

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John Friend and his Mum
John Friend (pictured above with his Mum)

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