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Claire Woolger avatar
Claire Woolger

Claire Woolger runs the London Marathon 2017 for Teenage Cancer Trust.

I am running the London Marathon 2017 for Teenage Cancer Trust because I'm raising awareness of teen cancer & treatment

203 %
£8,123.60
raised of £4,000 target
by 160 supporters
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  • Event: Virgin London Marathon 2017, 23 Apr 2017

Teenage Cancer Trust

We provide expert care and support to young people with cancer

Story

Thank you for visiting my Just Giving page.

 There are two things I would like you to do here:

  1. Please dig deep and donate (no surprises there) and 
  2.  please, please share the link (there are two reasons for this- one is obviously to boost donations for this fantastic charity, the other I will explain below).

A couple of years ago I started my fundraising for Teenage Cancer Trust with the Bath Half and vaguely threw around the idea of running a full marathon ‘at some point in the future’. Apparently 23rd April 2017 is that some point. Much to my Mum’s utter horror (sorry not sorry, Mum) I’ve decided to take on The London Marathon, all 26.2 miles and all £2,000 (minimum) fundraising of it(!)

My reasons for running for Teenage Cancer Trust are muchthe same as in 2015 when I did the Bath Half. Those of you who supported and sponsored me then (thank you!!!!) will be familiar with them, but here’s a brief outline of the charity:

 For the 7 teenagers and young adults diagnosed with cancer each day, TCT provides essential support both in hospital, schools and across other aspects of life before, during and after treatment.

The harsh reality is, being diagnosed with cancer as a
teenager (irrelevant of the other 6 people who also heard the same news that same day) is massively isolating. At 14, having just been given a Stage 4, (already spread to two separate areas) incredibly aggressive (fast spreading) cancer diagnosis and then informed of an intensive year’s worth of chemo and month of radiotherapy that such a diagnosis entailed, I certainly felt isolated.

With ‘Find Your Sense of Tumour’ conferences, through the work of the amazing education team and in creating the specialist wards for teenagers- TCT is the only charity that recognises the very specific challenges a teenager might face following diagnosis. This is all monumental in enabling them to cope with the pile of rubbish (in the form of cancer chemo/radiotherapy treatments) that life has just launched their way.

Anyone who has taken time to peruse the back of a
paracetamol packet (interesting bed-time reading right there) will be familiar with an alarmingly long list of potential side effects for a purchase-in-the-supermarket drug. It’s no surprise then that the side-effects of a cocktail of different chemotherapy drugs, short term- and in many ways worse still, long-term, far surpass the title of ‘list’. Delivered by my pediatric oncologist, (albeit in an upbeat and positive manner) the miscellany of potential health complications seemed never ending, with each one worse than the last…

 This brings me on to my second reason for running the marathon for TCT:

So often in films, books and media childhood/teen cancer is portrayed as a battle for life that rarely ends in survival. Whilst succeeding in instilling a fleeting sense of Carpe diem in more general audiences, for children, teenagers and families currently living the experience, such examples offer very little hope and comfort.

Stories pop up in the news, from friends and family and on Facebook of teenagers and families who are battling cancer and enduring the barbaric chemotherapy and treatments to survive. With equally many stories of families who have lost loved ones; it may seem that actually beating the disease for a teenager and their family should be the one and only concern, taking absolute precedence above everything else.

However, even before I knew how I would respond to the chemo, I found myself devoting some time to wondering whether once I got through my own pile of rubbish, I could and should even hope to live a ‘normal’ or relatively ‘normal’ life after. E.g. be a teenager/learn to drive/ sit and get exam results with peers/go to Uni/ get a job/travel… (that list also goes on) without long-term chemo-related complications or worse still, a cancer relapse, interrupting things along the way. One question that really niggled back then and there was limited reassurance on was:

 Are there people who get diagnosed with cancer early on in life who go on to ‘live life to the full’?’

And when you’re stuck in a hospital ward fighting cancer with the comparatively lesser evils of chemo and radiotherapy, two things so desperately needed are reassurance and hope. Reassurance that pumping your body full of that rubbish does have a purpose to justify its terrible means, and hope that there can still be a future in which you are able to do the most of the things most teenagers, if they really think about it, might expect they’d one day do. Understandably even the multiple oncologists, nurses and staff at hospital couldn’t, with any degree of confidence, predict quite how life post diagnosis and treatment would be.

So for each and every ‘normal’ thing I have been able to do since, I’ve been grateful and glad in ways very difficult to express. Every milestone feels like a triumph in living a normal life and a metaphorical finger-up
at cancer.

Running a marathon for TCT was never on my list of things I’d hoped would be possible; it wouldn’t have occurred to me as something I might like to do. Weirdly, this has become my main motivation for running.

Because if I could tell my fourteen/fifteen-year-old self that one day post treatment I would train for and run a marathon, I would have had the reassurance that people not only can survive to enjoy ‘normal lives’, they are also able to ‘live life to the full’ in ways they very much didn’t anticipate.

And if this succeeds only in offering meagre comfort to just one person going through that experience, then that marathon is well and
truly worth running!

Thank you for reading.

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