Having raised over £4000 running in the hottest London Marathon on record, 2019 saw Emma run three half marathons in just three weeks: Portugal, London and New York. All in memory of her beloved Mum Christine.
Emma was nineteen when her Mum found a large lump, just one week after a routine mammogram failed to detect any abnormalities and it was only when she experienced soreness in her breast that she became aware of its presence. At just forty-seven, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.
Christine underwent a unilateral mastectomy with full lymph node clearance and reconstruction. She also participated in a Herceptin trial that was taking place at the time.
Christine led a healthy life, never smoked and hardly ever drank, but she did improve her work life balance upon diagnosis by reducing her work hours as she was aware of the toll shift work was taking on her body.
Although it wasn’t proven to be a hormone driven cancer, it was a factor considered when deciding the best course of treatment and steps were taken to bring on her menopause medically.
The treatment was successful, and with the five-year remission mark approaching, the whole family were looking forward to being able to say, ‘clear for five, you’re going to be fine’. Cruelly, it was in the fifth year that Christine started to feel tight chested. It felt different to the symptoms of her asthma, so this was investigated. Indeed, tests confirmed that the cancer had spread to her spine and lungs.
When mum told us that it had spread to the bone, I thought ‘how is that possible?’ I just saw breast cancer as a standalone disease.
This time, treatment consisted of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but soon after attention turned solely to pain management. Chest drains were used to relieve pressure from the fluid build-up around her lungs.
Being a Nurse herself, Christine understood the process and was able to maintain a logical mindset throughout. Although her knowledge helped her to accept the situation herself, she found it difficult to know just how much to tell her family, believing that the more they knew the more they would worry.
Deteriorating further, Christine was admitted to the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI). At this time, concerns were raised as to the level of personal care and attention that could be provided due to the high patient:staff ratio. Although moving back home would have been preferred, this was not achievable and after six weeks at the BRI, she was transferred to the Macmillan unit in The Frenchay hospital. Here she had the privacy of her own ensuite room and benefitted from a much lower patient:staff ratio. There were no visiting limitations which meant that Emma could go and sit with her overnight.
Sadly, Christine passed away just three weeks after her move to the Frenchay, at the age of fifty-four.
Emma’s hereditary risk assessment was calculated at medium. Due to this, Emma will have routine mammograms from the age of forty rather than fifty. She has also been advised not to take the combined pill as this could increase her risk. A parent now herself, as Emma reaches the age her mum was when she was diagnosed, breast cancer is in the back of her mind. She checks herself regularly and maintains an active lifestyle.
For several years after her Mum’s passing, Emma found herself automatically thinking the worst when people she knew were diagnosed. Her perspective has improved now that she’s seen people go through treatment to enjoy life cancer free due to advances in medicine, owing to research.
It feels healing to contribute. Even though it’s a long time ago that we lost Mum, doing something positive is still important to me
As a family, they place a lot of value on research into secondary spread breast cancer and Emma’s fundraising for Against Breast Cancer reflects this. She ran London Marathon 2018, and a year later completed three half marathons in three weeks which meant travelling from London to Portugal and then on to New York.
To top off her phenomenal achievement, upon receiving her medal after the New York Half, her Mum’s song came on; Landslide by Fleetwood Mac, a stark contrast to the upbeat race songs that had been played before it. A bittersweet reminder of her reason to run.
So, take this love, take it down
Oh, if you climb a mountain and you turn around
If you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Well, the landslide will bring it down
Emma is planning to do a marathon in her mum’s memory every year now and is already looking toward the York Marathon in 2019 which takes place in Breast Cancer Awareness Month. She will raise more funds for Against Breast Cancer’s vital research with this marathon, adding to her current total of almost £5,000.