“I run to feel normal and to let the cancer know I’m in charge”

Glenys Waters 2

Earlier this month Glenys Waters ran the Bournemouth 5k Supernova for Ovarian Cancer Action. Glenys was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer in 2015 but refused to let this stop her from running. Now, with more than 100 park runs and a 'runner of the year' award under her belt, she looks back at her ovarian cancer journey...

"3rd October 2016: The circle is complete. Hand in hand with my husband, I crossed the finish line at the Bournemouth 5k Supernova, a race I had entered in 2015 but had to withdraw from as I was recovering from surgery for ovarian cancer.

But let’s start at the beginning of my cancer diary….

April 2015: Shock horror! A favourite dress made me look 6 months pregnant! Being a keen runner I was surprised to have developed a big tummy but my husband reasoned it was probably down to my age (I was 67).

I already had asthma; stenosis and spondylitis in my spine and, in the January of 2015, had suffered a compression fracture on my T7 vertebra. I wrongly, as it happens, dismissed the constant mild lower back pain and breathlessness when walking or running uphill to those problems.

June 2015: Finally persuaded by a friend to see my GP, also a keen club runner. I explained my symptoms and also told her that a younger cousin had died in 2007 from ovarian cancer.

From then on things moved quickly. Blood tests and an ultrasound scan were swiftly organised. The good news? I was not anaemic or diabetic and I did not have a thyroid problem. The bad news? My CA125 level was 220. The internet had already revealed what this was a marker for. "It will be fine," I told myself.

An ultrasound scan proved inconclusive so pelvic and abdomen CT scans followed. A small mass was seen on one ovary. I was referred to Peterborough hospital and then Addenbrookes, Cambridge to see a gynaecological oncologist who told me it was probably stage 1 ovarian cancer and I was lucky to have caught it so early.

21st September: Operation date. However, I had the New Forest 10k (6.5 miles) race to compete in on 13th. The Consultant said “go for it as fitness is so important”. So I did, and, followed it with a 5k (3.1 miles) parkrun on the Saturday before the operation.

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Whilst in post recovery, it was explained that things were more widespread than they first thought and I had primary peritoneal cancer. The surgeon had been unable to remove the left ovary as my bowel was 'stuck' to it. I still thought 'not too bad', the word primary confused me. My cancer was in actual fact stage 3.

Six courses of chemotherapy were to follow with interval debulking surgery in between.

26th September: 5 days after surgery, first parkrun or rather park push, with the assistance of my running club mates. Each week I tried to build up a little more walking/ jogging and less wheelchair.

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10th October: First parkrun without a wheelchair, slow, but gosh it made me feel almost normal.

17th October: Quite tearful at parkrun when everyone was saying how inspirational I was. Ran the whole 5k course, not fast, but I did it. Chemo is due to start on the 20th starting to feel very apprehensive.

20th October: Start chemo today. Have I washed my hair for the last time? Few tears in the car park as my husband kissed me and wished me good luck. Six hours later left unit, so far so good. Not quite as bad as I had thought.

Effects of chemo not good! Had dreadful weekend couldn't eat or drink, constant sickness. However, a few days later not feeling too bad.

30th October: Still have my own hair, but I’m going to choose my wig. Can't quite believe how good it looks. Have to keep trying to run, but body not quite as willing as brain thinks it should be.

4th November: Hair starting to come out. Good job I have thick hair, scalp not showing yet.

22nd December: Christmas is approaching and 4th cycle of chemo due …great! More important for me was that Christmas Day was going to be my 99th and Boxing Day my 100th parkrun. The sash and brightly coloured wigs were ready. Legs very wobbly but I completed both runs with all my family running as well, lots of lovely comments from fellow runners.

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29th January 2016: Major operation day, travelled to Addenbrookes with my husband and daughter. Very scared! Sick and sore after operation. Home after 4 days but then re-admitted as I had a bowel adhesion. Needed PICC line fitted. Two weeks later home again. Probably just as well I had to stay in as long as I did as it stopped me from trying to do too much.

8th April: Last cycle of chemo my CA125 down to 34, hair is now starting to grow back. I have stubble! Brilliant news.

Need to get back to strength now and increase the distance training as 10k races booked for early May, mid-June and early September.

19th June: Race for life Poole with Alison (my daughter) and Oana

28th June: back in hospital for a week. Another adhesion. It’s my Birthday tomorrow!

So what happend next?

August 100 mile challenge completed in 21 days, New Forest 10k completed in 1hr 12min, October’s Bournemouth 5k Supernova in 31min 43sec, and my CA125 is now 20. How happy do I feel?

In July I was awarded 'runner of the year' from my running club. So proud!

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I'm often asked why I push myself so hard. The simple answer is I run to feel normal and to let the cancer know that I'm in charge.

The treatment is not pleasant and the journey has not been easy but the running gave me something different to think about. When I was running I was no different from the rest of the runners.

I really value the support I have received from everyone, family, friends and fellow parkrunners, and thank them all for helping me to raise over £270 for Ovarian Cancer Action."

Would you like to take on a challenge for Ovarian Cancer Action? Click here for a full list of challenge events.