Andy was inspired by his mum to take on a difficult running challenge for Target Ovarian Cancer. He tells us about his mum and why he wants to fundraise and raise awareness.
In August 2014 the lady who I had known all of my life - had been a best friend, a go-to in good times and bad - died of ovarian cancer. There were times that I hope that I did things that made my mum proud, but it was the fact that she stood by me in the times that I made mistakes that I loved her for most of all.
When she was first diagnosed and the time came to tell me and my sister the only word that I really took in was 'cancer'. At that moment my focus was on that one word and the ovarian part did not even register with me. It was not until some days later that I started to ask questions about the illness that had got hold of my mum.
I know that people say that you shouldn't search out illnesses on the web, but I needed information to help me understand what was happening and what lay ahead. I avoided forums and discussions and headed to charity sites dedicated to ovarian cancer and came across the Target Ovarian Cancer website. I'm not going to say that the site fully prepared me for what was to come (nothing could) but it gave me an understanding of what we were dealing with and what to expect in the coming months.
Remembering the good times
My mum received amazing treatment over the next 18 months at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead, but unfortunately lost her battle in August 2013. The hole that was left after she died was enormous and will never be filled, but I know that she would have wanted us to remember the good times and not be beaten.
I also know that she would have wanted us to keep doing things with our lives that we could have talked about over the phone or whilst having Sunday dinner around the kitchen table with a glass (or two) of wine. Whether we succeeded or failed in these things she would have supported us - no matter what - and I can still hear her say 'ma boy' whether it was in celebration or commiseration.
The words of my dad have also stayed with me in that there was no point in getting angry with cancer as there was nothing there to take your anger out on - there was no 'cat to kick'. But this left me with the feeling that I had to have something to focus on, something mum would have been proud of me for trying whether success or failure followed. I also wanted to take something on that was big enough for me to raise both awareness and some money for Target Ovarian Cancer to help them continue in their work to take on this illness.
Out of my comfort zone
It took me a year to find a challenge that I felt was far enough out of my comfort zone. A challenge I could use to catch people's attention whilst personally pushing what I believe I might be capable of. The event that I ended up choosing was The Lakeland 50 ultra-marathon which is a 50 mile 'race' through the Lake District, taking place at the end of July 2015.
The problem that I had when I entered this event back in September was that I had never run over thirteen miles and I had only ever done that twice. I am also a slightly chubby 39-year-old father of two weighing in at 14.5 stone so I wouldn't describe myself as a natural athlete.
I took up running in 2007 shortly after my little girl was born. In 2008 I set myself a challenge to run the 2009 Edinburgh Half Marathon and in the process for training for the event it helped me to lose more than three stone, I haven't looked back since. I love the fact that I can have my running kit wherever I am and it takes a couple of minutes to be changed, trainers on and out of the door. Not only has running had physical health benefits but it has also been the thing that I have turned to since mum died when times have been bad and I couldn't see things rationally. I find it amazing how things can change mentally whether I go out for a quick 5k or for a couple of hours.
Training so far
My training so far has gone well and I have tried to break it down into goals between now and the event. My first goal was to run two fell races prior to Christmas, even though I have very little experience of running off road. My first fell race was back at the start of November in Teesside and I have to say it was a bit of a shock to the system.
I learned three things that day: I am not very good at running up hills, I am pretty woeful running down them as well and I also didn't have much energy left for the flat bits in between the ups and the downs. I have tried to learn from this and have added more off road and hills into my training. I've now completed my second one, which was quite different to the first as the climbs weren't quite as severe. However the mud, wind, snow and freezing temperatures provided their own challenges. I have to say that once I had warmed up and finished my fourth bit of cake I really did enjoy it.
My next goal
Having completed my two fell races I now move onto my next goal which is to run my first marathon in the spring. Once I start training for this I also hope to start focussing on raising awareness for the charity. I am hoping to use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, my blog and any other channels to make as many people aware of the charity that I am representing. I have already asked all of my facebook friends to change their status photo to the Target Ovarian Cancer logo for 24 hours. I hope that me trying to propel myself forwards for 50 miles will encourage people to put their hands in their pockets to give some money to this brilliant charity.
I am very proud to be a man representing Target Ovarian Cancer. Obviously the primary people impacted by ovarian cancer are women but the secondary effects on family and friends cross all genders. If I can raise awareness and funds for the charity which in the future helps to stop another man (even one) from losing his mum then hopefully some good can come out of my unfortunate awareness of the illness.
Inspired by Andy's story? Please share your own experience of ovarian cancer.