Author Jenny Baker kindly sent me a copy of her book Run For Your Life – how one woman ran circles around breast cancer. I was really keen to read this, not only to hear her story but also to help with my conversations with patients who have cancer.
The statistics for running and breast cancer are very powerful. There’s strong evidence that regularly being physically active can reduce your risks of developing breast cancer by 20%. It can also help to reduce the risk of it recurring after treatment – some studies quote by as much as 40%. What I was really interested to hear from Jenny was whether and how she managed to keep running throughout her treatment. Again, there are studies that show being active whilst undergoing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy reduces side effects such a nausea, fatigue and low mood. I’m often giving this advice yet also aware that the reality of exercising whilst in the midst of cancer treatment can be very difficult.
I took Run For Your Life on a long haul flight with me so devoured it in one sitting. I didn’t need the distraction of in-flight movies as I just wanted to keep reading.
Jenny takes you right back to when she started running; discovering the incredible satisfaction of setting and meeting challenges and the realisation that running is so beneficial for all round wellbeing.
You travel and learn with Jenny as you read this. Her adventures take her to Palestine and she opened my eyes to the history, the troubles and the people. Another reminder of how running isn’t just about times and distance but exploration and education too.
You can feel the shock, disbelief and vulnerability as Jenny gets her cancer diagnosis. This was at a time when she was at the peak of fitness and making great plans for her running over the year to come. As a runner and a medic I felt pride and admiration as she took control and approached her treatment plan as she had previously approached marathon training plans. It was clear that running would help her focus and be healing in its own way, both physically and mentally. With the blessing of her oncologist she planned to run to all her chemotherapy sessions; friends and family rallied to support her.
The book takes you from before Jenny had cancer, through diagnosis, treatment and into recovery too. This is a story of determination and courage, of honesty and truth. Despite the gritty subject of cancer, Run For Your Life’s over-riding message is one of positivity and hope. I’m grateful to Jenny for sharing her innermost thoughts and feelings. I learnt so much from reading this and I highly recommend it to you.