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Rob's story

Running helps me show blood cancer who’s boss

Rob, 30, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) in 2011, after noticing a suspicious-looking bruise. He now takes tablets to manage his symptoms and lives an active life.

Rob, living with CML, heading out for a run.JPG

Rob, 30, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) in 2011, after noticing a suspicious-looking bruise. He now takes tablets to manage his symptoms and lives an active life.


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.

What does it mean to live with blood cancer? Not just to survive, but to really live, to squeeze as much out of every day as you can. For me, living an active life is a big part of that.

Exercise and fitness have always been a big part of my journey with CML. Losing weight suddenly was one of my first noticeable symptoms.

At the time (before I knew what had caused it) I was really happy about the weight loss, as I’d always been a bit overweight.

The route to diagnosis

In a way, exercise led to my diagnosis. I picked up a big bruise on the rugby pitch, which thankfully led to a very timely doctor’s appointment and my subsequent diagnosis.

The doctor was amazed that I’d been playing rugby with an enlarged spleen and not done myself a more serious injury. I suppose the truth is I never really tackled anyone hard enough to get injured!

Asking the big questions

After diagnosis, once the more serious questions of life and death had been dealt with, the question of exercise and living an active life was a big one for me. “Could I still play rugby?” I wondered. “Should I be taking it easy? Would I start putting on weight again?” Everyone is different and, ultimately, if you have blood cancer you should make decisions like these with your consultant. But for me, those questions have driven me towards a fit and healthy lifestyle.

From rugby boots to running shoes

I did play rugby again for a while after I was diagnosed. With my CML under control with tablets I took each day, the bruises I picked up were now a more normal size. But when fatherhood came along, I decided to hang up my boots (no great loss to the sport!) and reach for a pair of running shoes instead.

In the nearly nine years since my diagnosis, I’ve completed several half marathons, and this year even managed to drag myself round two full marathons – something I never thought I could achieve in my younger days.

Next year, my target is to run the big one – the London Marathon – raising money for Blood Cancer UK, of course. And maybe an ultra-marathon… Just don’t tell my wife!

Reaping the rewards

There are still doubts and niggles that come with the territory. If I feel discomfort during a run, I can’t help but worry that it’s the CML. And if I lose weight (as I have this year due to marathon lunacy), it takes me back to diagnosis and gives me nightmares of relapse. But none of that will stop me staying as healthy and active as I can. I love the feeling I get from running and showing blood cancer who’s boss. I love the feeling of being fit and healthy when I play with my three beautiful and boisterous kids.

I also find the clarity and headspace that running gives me to be invaluable in dealing with the mental aspect of living with blood cancer, and of life in general. For me, this is what it means to really live with blood cancer… and I don’t intend to stop any time soon.

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.

Jacqueline, in remission from DLBCL, out walking with a friend

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