A breast cancer patient’s journey – Blog Post 8 – Doing The Dirty Thirty

Ruth Taylor
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Ruth Taylor, 45, is a mum of two who was diagnosed with breast cancer back in May 2016. We are honoured to share her journey from initial diagnosis, informing her family, through to chemo and radiotherapy. She hopes to raise awareness and educate others about breast cancer, while firmly kicking cancer back where it belongs. This is the eighth instalment in her guest blog.
A fortnight after my diagnosis appointment I had a further meeting with Mr Masannat to give me an opportunity to ask questions and go over my treatment plan. He mentioned that he had put a referral in for me to get a bone scan to check my back and I was pleased that I was getting what I perceived to be an MOT! We went through the plan for my chemotherapy which the doctor told me would be scheduled for after I’d recovered from the operation and I would then most probably need radiotherapy, but they would know for certain once they removed the lump and analysed it. My operation date was confirmed as Mon 20th June and I was told I would need to come into the hospital the afternoon before to be admitted, as my operation would be in the morning the following day.
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The Kyle of Lochalsh Dirty 30 challenge

I was pleased the dates had worked out so well with the Kyle of Lochalsh Dirty 30 challenge that I had entered.  I had decided earlier in the year, before I had any idea about my cancer, I wanted to do a long distance “race” but one where I could walk, as I knew my knees would not stand up to running much further than about 10 miles.  I had enquired on a local Facebook group page called Insch Trail Runners if anyone had any ideas and one of the group had suggested this, as a very beautiful route and had recommended the event as being very friendly and relaxed, where participants could either decide to enter to run the 30 miles or walk it.  I had tried to conjure up some interest from a couple of friends at work that I had done shorter local races with, but they were otherwise engaged.  I contemplated not doing it for a nanosecond and then I thought, what the heck, I would be able to please myself and go at my own pace and enjoy the experience on my own, so I entered on line and completed a number of long distance walk days locally leading up to the event.

The challenge to race under 9 hours

A few people suggested that I should not do it, saying it was not sensible to over exert myself now that I had been diagnosed, but I was more determined than ever that I wanted to complete it and to effectively prove to myself that my illness would not stop me from doing the things that I loved.  So I was pleased when Andrew suggested that he come along as my “crew” and so we asked Mary to look after the kids and headed across to the West coast the weekend before my operation.

The race started early and we had a bus picking us up from the campsite we were staying at to take the competitors along the winding roads to the village of Glenelg where the start was.  I waited with Andrew for the bus, looking around me at all the experienced folk and noticed that their backpacks were all small ones and that they were dressed far more scantily than myself in my multi layers!  I felt decidedly conspicuous with my huge rucksack and could feel the label “novice numpty” radiating from my forehead.  When the bus arrived I bade farewell to Andrew and scrambled on, relieved at the opportunity to hide my bag down under my seat.

Once we arrived, we registered at the village hall and were given our bib numbers and waited for the race to start.  The weather was kind to us, with sunny intervals and a light breeze so that the midges were not too troublesome along the way. I knew it was going to be challenging and require a lot of determination to complete it in what I considered to be a reasonable time – I had told my friends at work as long as I did it under 10 hours I’d be happy, but I was privately hoping to do it considerably faster than that.  So, I set off at a brisk pace and tried throughout the walk to keep focused and not to slacken up.  The hours passed remarkably quickly and the scenery was utterly stunning, so I always had something to keep my attention.  I recall a particularly tough section soon after halfway where we climbed a steep hill.  My backpack by this point felt like a lead weight and I was really struggling, as I battled up the hill.  I could see people behind me and just tried to keep my pace up to stay ahead.

I remember digging an apple out of my backpack and eating it as I staggered upwards – I have never tasted anything so good and sweet and refreshing.  I could feel the energy returning to my body as I ate it and gradually saw the summit come into view.  On and on I went and with each mile ticked off, I soon realised that my hope for around 8 hours was merely a pipe dream.  So I set the next goal of possibly doing it in 8 and a half, but as I carried on further and further, I could feel myself flagging and I knew that I would not manage that target either.  So, it then became “let’s do it in under 9 hours!”  I kept pushing myself harder and harder, as I could feel the desperation in me rise – I had to do this!  I couldn’t bear the thought of missing this deadline and so I picked up the pace and willed myself to the finish line, checking my watch more and more frequently as I got closer.  It was going to be incredibly close!!  I stumbled down the hill back to the village hall and went in to register my official finish time.  I remember asking them “Is it under 9?  Is it under 9?” and to my huge relief they confirmed it was.

At that point I fell into a seat at one of the tables with refreshments and tried to catch my breath.  But I just seemed to start breathing faster and faster and I couldn’t calm myself down.  Eventually, after being tended to by one of the runners who happened to be a doctor and a couple of other very kind first aiders, I managed to gain control of myself and was able to stagger to the bus for the return journey back to the camp site and Andrew.  He was expecting to cook tea once I had appeared, but I was so exhausted both physically and mentally, I wanted nothing else than to lay down in the roof tent and fall asleep.  When the official times were posted on the website, I was astounded to find out I was the 6th fastest walker at 8hrs and 54 mins and the third fastest female, so technically I told myself, I was on the podium!!  I was so proud of my achievement and it made me feel more resolute that I would be able to face the operation and all of the treatment that lay ahead of me.  It was a fantastic experience, one which I will always cherish as a reminder of what I can achieve if I give it my all, and once again I found myself reflecting on the words of Rudyard Kipling “If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone and so hold on when there is nothing in you except the will which says to them “Hold on!”"

Missed the previous blog posts?

Post 7 - Telling the family that I have breast cancer

Post 6 - Results

Post 5 - Doctors Appointment

Post 4 - Waiting for the biopsy results

Post 3 - Biopsy & Results

Post 2 - The One Stop Shop

Post 1 - Introducing #RuthsJourney

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