Doing my best to stay active with leukaemia
Katie, 35, was diagnosed with diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) in 2007 when she was just 22.
Please note, this story was written before the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. If you’re shielding, some of the activities described here may not be appropriate for you. Speak to your healthcare team for tailored advice – they know you and your individual circumstances.
I was never a fan of exercise when I was younger. Running around in the garden was fun, but at school I was always in the B team.
And then to my joy, when I was 14, I was signed off sport FOREVER! I had really painful and swollen knees and was told to avoid going up and down stairs, as even that aggravated it. A dream come true!
Fast forward a few years, and as a late teen in my gap year, going to the gym became appealing as I wanted to get fit enough to walk the Inca Trail. For around six months, I did regular exercise and enjoyed it. But after getting back from travelling, life took over and the gym completely fell off my radar.
Catching the running bug
In 2007, when I was 22, out of nowhere I was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia and everything changed. I met someone after my diagnosis who had recovered from lung cancer and suggested doing the Great North Run. I thought, “If they can do it with only one lung and a bit, I’m sure I can!” And my running bug started.
Training for the Great North Run was actually pretty easy. I took a very relaxed, slow and gentle approach as I hadn’t done any proper exercise for so long. I started with a two-mile run (well, more of a jog!) three times a week until that was easy to do. I then built it up at my own pace until I hit around 11 miles a week.
I took longer to train than most training plans – I just did it on my own.
Doing my first marathon was enjoyable as I was a first-year university student with loads of time! The second marathon was horrific and I hated every second of training. I had really debilitating chronic fatigue and was also setting up my business. I shouldn’t have done it, but people had sponsored me.
I had to motivate myself to exercise. If I didn’t then I would have stopped and given up, and I refused to do that. I just made sure that I could limit what I had to do the next day. I always did my long runs on a Saturday so I knew I could just sit on the sofa and recover on Sunday.
I also felt like I had something to prove. And, what’s more, I wanted to raise awareness. Living with a chronic blood cancer is rare – it’s not known about. Running a marathon gave me a reason to talk about leukaemia and let people know how tough it can be, but also show that I’m getting on with life anyway.
Learning to pace myself
Sadly, over the past year, my energy levels haven't been up to running. But I walk as much as I can, and keep my fitness up that way. It’s not the same and I miss running so much, but I know it’s more important to put me first and get through the day. It really helps my mental health and it gives me time for me – a chance to smile and enjoy life.
I love my daily walks and I do my best to clock up 10,000 steps. I love seeing the seasons and light change, and what happens to the plants and trees.
Becoming who I am
I decided when I was diagnosed that I was definitely going to be someone living with cancer, not someone defined by cancer. It’s with me for life, so if I let it dictate how I am or what I do (within reason), I wouldn’t do anything.
I don’t know how I would be now without my blood cancer diagnosis. I was only 22 at the time. But it has definitely made me aware of doing the best I can, every day, to live well.
Janssen-Cilag Ltd has supported Blood Cancer UK with funding for the production of this web page and others within the ‘Living well’ section. It had no influence over the content.
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