|With Mum and brothers at Nan's party|
From Nan's party to Blackheath Common
After I had completed my chemotherapy, I had a couple of months off work to recuperate and relax. During this time, my grandmother had her eightieth birthday and we had a large family celebration.
Nan herself had been treated for breast
cancer some fifteen years previously and was now suffering from bladder cancer
– a condition for which she refused potentially curative treatment and to which
she would eventually succumb. She had
also lost her husband of 50 years – my grandfather – to bowel cancer eight
years previously. Throughout my treatment, during which I had very low periods,
she contacted me daily. I called her my cancer buddy. As she too was suffering from
cancer, she felt that she was in a position to understand what I was
experiencing. Despite this, I felt
alone. Despite her and other people’s attempts to ‘reach’ me, I was determined
to shut everyone out and revel in my misery.
The day before
Nan’s party I was on a shopping trip and in a much more positive frame of mind. I went
into a clothes shop and saw a bright red t-shirt with a silhouetted face of Bobby Moore on the
front and a large white number 6 on the reverse. had worn a red number 6 shirt when he had
captained the Moore football team to win the World Cup in
1966 – the year I was born. I'm not a big football fan, but I bought the shirt
and wore it to England Nan’s party the following day. I don’t know
why – perhaps because Bobby Moore had recovered from testicular cancer and died
of bowel cancer - but the shirt seemed linked to my cancer experience and my
recovery. The party was a wonderful occasion. The whole family and lots of
friends had lunch at a local restaurant, and lots of us went back to my mum’s
house afterwards. As we celebrated my Nan’s
eightieth year, lots of people took the opportunity to ask how I was doing.
With my bald head and bright red t-shirt I was the elephant in the room. It was
only three weeks since I had had my last infusion of chemo, but I was now feeling
well and positive and thoroughly enjoyed the occasion.
Seven years later, in 2009, I was looking for an event in which to participate to raise funds for cancer research. I had attended Race for Life events locally, and was struck by the wonderful positivity of such occasions. These 5K runs bring together thousands of women in the cause of raising funds for breast cancer research, and take place in many towns and cities across the country. A that time, Cancer Research
also ran a male-only event – the Run for UK – in the name of Bobby Moore, which
raised funds for research into bowel cancer – the disease that had killed my
grandfather in 1995. I signed up. I also persuaded my brother Dave to join me. Moore
Dave and I are not runners. Dave was a keen footballer in his youth, but in his forties those days are well behind him. I suffered from asthma as a youngster, and my schoolboy footballing career was spent between the posts as a goalkeeper. I can’t run more than a few yards without gasping desperately for breath , like a fish on the deck of a trawler. We decided we ought to pace out a 5K route in our local area to get an idea of how far we would have to run on the day. Our route took us past our local park, in which my family has planted a small tree in memory of my grandfather. We stopped in the park to take a photo of ourselves by the tree – and to have an ice cream. The route seemed pretty long and challenging for two unfit blokes of our age.
The day of the run arrived, and our two families drove to
for the race; our wives and children just
as excited and considerably less daunted that we were. I handed out LIVESTRONG
wristbands to everyone and we stopped for a cooked breakfast on the way.
Possibly not the best preparation! Dave and I both wore the red number 6 Run
for London t-shirts that the charity supplies for
participants which, needless to say, were very similar to the shirt I had worn for Moore Nan’s party. Nan had passed away five years previously as
a result of the bladder cancer. Pomp – our grandfather – had died fourteen
years previously from the type of cancer for which we were raising funds. It
seemed right to dedicate the run to them. I wrote ‘For Nan and Pomp’ on my race
number, and Dave did the same.
We were determined to enjoy the race. Of course we were both unfit and ill-prepared, so we had no chance of finishing well. Therefore we resolved to get a place at the front, as close as possible to the start line, and at least start well. As all the other runners participated in a mass warm-up, we stood as close as possible to the start-line in order to secure our place. The idea was to sprint as fast as we could and get ahead of everyone, so that when we told the story we could say that we were, at one point, leading. The other runners joined the queue behind us – 1700 of them. Dave and I suddenly felt very daunted. A lot of very serious runners were lining up behind us, and most of them looked as though they could run far faster than we could. We were in great danger of being trampled! We would have to run like hell from the off in order to avoid disaster. Suddenly our preparation – ice cream in the park, a 5K stroll and not bothering with the warm-up seemed ridiculous and foolhardy. Determined not to appear scared, we showed our concern by waving to our wives and children and pulling funny faces.
As the claxton signaled the start of the race, we had no option but to run for our lives. We must have been a ridiculous sight; my legs flailing ineffectively like a gazelle running for its life from a predator; Dave lumbering at commendable speed. We managed to get into second and third places, but could not overtake the leader. Photos of the start of the race show the two of us with enormous smiles on our faces as we put everything into our attempt to look like serious competitors.
Around the corner, away from the crowds at the start-line, we were able to slow down, walk, and take in the scene. The sight of many hundreds of men, all wearing the red number 6 shirt like the one I had worn to Nan’s party was inspiring and a little overwhelming. My personal journey seemed to have been multiplied by a factor of nearly two-thousand. I’m sure each of the participants felt the power of the unity of purpose just as I did.
Dave and I walked most of the rest of the route; breaking into a run only when we passed attractive female stewards, to whom we would wave and shout, ‘Hi ladies!’
‘Well done!’ or ‘Keep going!’ they would shout back, encouragingly. Some of our children joined us for the final part of the run, and as we crossed the line, forty minutes after starting, the crowds clapped us in and our wives treated us like heroes.
The 2009 race was, sadly, the last Run for
to date. However, Dave and I never tire
of relaying the story whenever we have the chance, and recently I found a
picture online, of the two of us sprinting from the line, exhilarated and
terrified in equal measure. An email to the photographer yielded two more photos, which I was able
to share with Dave during his own recent time in hospital for bowel surgery,
reminding us both not only of the day we literally ran for our lives, but also
of the family party years earlier. Moore