Cycling & Running
In 2012 I bought a road bike and began cycling with South East Road Club cycling club based in Co.Wicklow, and after really taking to the bike I was convinced to begin racing in February 2013, something I would never even have dreamed of trying. In my first novice race of a local league I won, and was subsequently moved up to A4, finishing up 2nd in that league that year, as well as joint 1st in another local league. I also rode the Wicklow 200 cycing event two years in a row, clocking in at about 6hrs 55m.
During 2013 my sister somehow convinced me to try running, so I joined my local running club Sliabh Buidhe Rovers in Ferns Co. Wexford, and I ended up running the Dublin Marathon that October finishing in a time of 3hrs 51m while only just having finished racing season on the bike.
I seemed to take to running and decided to run Berlin in September 2014 which I finished in a time of 3hrs 16m. Realising how much I loved running and how far I was progressing with it, I decided to target the illustrious sub 3 hour marathon, and took no time in booking the Cologne Marathon for October 2015 with the goal of doing exactly that.
After Berlin, my sister invited me to run the 2015 Manchester Marathon in April with her, so I thought this would be good training for my sub 3 hour attempt later that October. My target was 3hrs 10m with the hope that if all goes well I might actually finish a bit faster than that, and I finished in 3hrs 6m, so I was very satisfied that I was on target for Cologne.
Did the stranger who hit me with a football in Bushy Park save my life?
In February 2015 I moved to Dublin to start a new job, and a few months later I began training with Sportsworld Running Club in Bushy Park, Terenure. One of my next races I had signed up for was the Clonee 10k, and I was aiming to run my first sub 40.
Two days prior to the race I was training with the club in Bushy Park, the 23rd of June, and while doing some sprint work around a football pitch I was accidentally hit really hard by a football in my left leg, just above my knee. I kept running thinking that it was quite a slap but nothing more, I never even bothered to glance over to see who it might have been. The next day I decided to do a nice easy 6k to prepare my legs for the Clonee 10k, all was good.
On arriving in Clonee the weather seemed pretty good for the race, the course seemed nice and fast, and I was quite optimistic about smashing the sub 40m. On warming up I began to limp a bit, I couldn’t understand it, I couldn’t think of any reason why I would be limping. I tried some more stretches and after chatting with my girlfriend I decided I would start the race but if I had any issues or continued to limp I would pull out, with my sub 3 hour attempt in the Cologne Marathon in the back of my mind.
The whistle blew and off we went, straight in to a 3:35 min/km for the first km, we were cruising and settled in to a steady pace, then the limp returned so I began to slow down and I pulled out before we hit 2kms. I was kindly transported back to the start line. In all my days cycling and running I had never had an injury before, and had hoped it wasn’t a bad one especially with all the events I had lined up for the rest of the year.
Over the course of the next few weeks I began to experience a lot of pain in my left leg, I had completely stopped training after pulling out of Clonee. The pain was increasing and I gradually began limping more and more while walking. It was time to visit both my physio and my GP to get some answers.
They both asked how I came about the injury, or what I might have done to cause it and the only thing that came to mind was that perhaps getting hit in the leg by the ball damaged some of my muscles. The suggestion from both my GP and physio was put down to severe muscle trauma due to the impact of the ball. The GP advised me to rest the leg and take some anti-inflammatories.
After about 6 weeks the pain had gotten so bad I was literally rolling around in agony, I couldn’t handle it anymore, so I booked in to see my GP and I demanded to be sent for an MRI, and after her seeing how much pain I was in I was booked straight in for it.
Do you have anyone that can come in with you for the appointment?
I remember it was Friday that I got the call from my GP while in work. She asked me if I could come in for my MRI results that day, but I explained that there wasn’t a chance because I was flat out in work, so I booked in for the Monday instead. It was approaching the end of August so about two months after getting hit by the ball, I would finally have an answer as to what was going on.
Before hanging up the phone my GP asked me if I had anyone that could come in with me, I’ll never forget her asking me that. I thought to myself, why on earth would I need someone to come in with me, and thought nothing of it. I explained that it would be just me.
My MRI Results
I finished work an hour early on the day of my results to make the appointment, little did I know that I would not be returning to work for a very long time. I feared that I was about to be told that I had chipped a bone in my leg or something like that, meaning a long recovery, and that my sub 3 hour attempt in Cologne would have to be postponed for another year. I was always a little bit angry about being hit with the ball as it seemed to spell the end of my Cologne Marathon attempt, little did I know.
In to the appointment I went, I sat down, I don’t think I will ever forget the look on my GP’s face, it wasn’t a good news sort of look, yet I still didn’t think much of it, and was absolutely oblivious to what I was about to be told.
The MRI results came back, quite a big tumor was found in my left leg, above the knee, where I had the severe pain, and exactly where I had been hit by the ball.
I remember sitting back in the chair in absolute shock, lost in my thoughts, this doesn’t make sense, I’m 32, I don’t smoke, I’m fit and healthy, I ran a 3:06 marathon just a few months ago. Interrupting my thoughts the GP asked if I’d like her to call someone, so I phoned my Mum told her, then handed the phone over to my GP and left the room in shock, trying to figure out in my head what was going on. After going back in to the GP she explained I was being referred immediately to St Vincent’s Hospital. I then drove back to the apartment I shared with my girlfriend of just 6 months to somehow try and explain to her what I had just been told, and that was a pretty difficult thing to do.
St Vincent’s Hospital
Very quickly I found myself in hospital for numerous appointments, blood tests, scans, meetings with specialists, I was practically in hospital daily.
I was in the process of studying for my final Qualified Financial Adviser exam which I was due to sit in less than a month, but after finding out about the tumor, and the fact that I was in hospital nearly every day I decided that I had no choice but to put the book down and admit to myself that I wouldn’t be sitting it.
After meeting with orthopedics for the results of the x-ray on my leg I was informed that the tumor was infact cancerous, that it had actually very badly eaten through my femur, and needed to be treated immediately with high level chemotherapy and radiation. I was put on crutches immediately and told that my leg was not allowed to touch the ground for fear of it shattering. It occurred to me that the random incident of getting hit by the ball is what led to the discovery of the tumor. What if I hadn’t been hit by the ball? I couldn’t help but wonder.
After further test results came back it was confirmed, I was diagnosed with High Grade (Aggressive) Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. But it turned out that it wasn’t just in my left leg, it had spread all through my body and even up to my head. This meant that I would face a much longer duration in hospital and an even heavier treatment plan.
While at home and waiting to be admitted to St Anne’s Ward in St Vincent’s Hospital for treatment, it had come down to the day before I was due to sit my exam. I thought to myself, who knows when I might be able to sit the exam again, and if there was even the smallest chance I might pass it then I should at least give it ago, especially after all the early mornings and hard work I had put in. So I phoned my girlfriend and told her I was thinking of sitting it, the next day, after not having opened the manual in about a month, I went up to Dublin and without telling anyone except my girlfriend I somehow sat the exam, despite what was going on, and a few weeks later I was admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital to begin my treatment.
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NEXT WEEK: Treatment time, St Anne’s Ward.