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"The dark times can be overcome by anyone" – David's running epiphany

5th Sep 2023

David Lauder has completed his 19th Great North Run in support of blood cancer research. He's seeking to raise awareness of blood cancer by telling his story – without the jargon – and hopes to demonstrate that the dark times can be overcome by anyone.

David Lauder with daughter 2005

David with his daughter Sabrina at his 2nd Great North Run, 2005


2004, preparing for a bone marrow transplant

David writes: "“When embarking on my own chemotherapy in 2004 I found it strangely comforting to know how far we have come from the dark days when it seemed more like a way of torturing patients”.

“A cold feeling as the blood left and entered my arms is just about the only discomfort I can recall with the process. A nurse would come back regularly to check I had not escaped. Unfortunately, I remember cracking some awful jokes about whether the machine was feeding vodka and whether they took orders”.

David Lauder at 2nd London Marathon

David runs past the Blood Cancer UK cheer point at his 2nd London Marathon


“After two days, I felt slightly stronger, but suddenly noticed a large rash on my leg. At the same time, I was alternating between shivering and feeling very hot. I phoned the chemotherapy nurse. On this occasion, I did not get very far with pleasantries. As soon as I mentioned the word “rash,” the nurse shouted down the phone: ‘Get yourself down here IMMEDIATELY!’”

"I was lucky to survive"

“The chemotherapy had knocked out my bone marrow. The diagnosis was neutropenic sepsis….I read that the possible complications include organ failure, coagulopathy (a bleeding disorder), encephalopathy (brain damage), psychological sequelae (long-term mental health problems), delirium, and death."

"Arguably, I did not escape the sequelae and delirium, as it might explain the subsequent urge to run marathons.”

Discovering running as my main weapon for fighting leukaemia was a happy accident and a way of transforming misfortune into a life-affirming experience.”

David writes about completing his first Great North Run: ”Finally, we cross the line, and I punch the air. Tears of joy are streaming down my face. I could have been dead, but now I embrace my newly found future…as I recover, the day's events play back in my mind like an epic movie, and I think, ‘What an experience: that was more than a run. It was an epiphany.’

David Lauder finishing London Marathon

David finishing his 2nd London Marathon for Blood Cancer UK


"I recall the famous quote from Brendan Foster after the first Great North Run in 1981: ‘It’s been a great day for the region, and a privilege to be there. We have no choice. We’ll have to have another one next year.’ And that is how I felt: I had no choice. I had to 'have another one next year'.”

When David finally relapsed and entered a clinical trial in 2019, at Jimmy’s (St James’s University Hospital, Leeds), he fought back by launching what he calls his “moon shot”, by taking on his first London Marathon. He says that the achievement of completing it gave him the strength and confidence to deal with his next treatment.

The above excerpts were taken from David's book: Colours, Medals, and Music: Running My Way Through Leukaemia, which invites readers to "find your own 'moon shots', to always remember to fight back, to never give up, and to explore a power that I believe all humans possess, namely the power to survive".