The Competition

Rock ‘n’ Roll Idol 2018

A few months ago a running friend told me about a running competition whereby you enter your story and if you get selected in to the finals and win, you basically win return flights to Las Vegas for two to run a half marathon, hotel accommodation, and entry to the race, it sounded amazing, so I gave it a go! I sent in my entry, I thought to myself that I have quite the story to tell, one based so much around running so why not give it a go, I had nothing to lose.

My Entry

So here was my entry..

“I never thought it would be me, you never think it would be you, but in 2015 it happened, I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of just 32, I had no idea what I was in for but I was about to find out, the hard way.

I was never an athletic person, I never really found my sporting passion as a teenager, sport wasn’t really my thing, but in 2013 my sister asked me if I wanted to run the upcoming Kildare half marathon with her and I agreed. I began training but had already built up a great level of fitness from cycling which really helped, I ran it, really enjoyed it, and that’s where my love for running began.

I then set my sights on the Dublin Marathon, 6 months after the Kildare half, started getting my training in and went for it completing it in a time of 3hrs 51m. It was onwards and upwards from there, I ran Berlin in 2014 in a time of 3hrs 16m, I couldn’t believe it, and that’s when I began to think about targeting the illusive sub 3-hour marathon. I booked the Cologne Marathon for October 2015, I was going for it! It would be an absolute dream.

I ran the Manchester Marathon in April of 2015 as preparation to see how my training was going for Cologne, and subsequently ran it in 3hrs 06m and couldn’t have been happier. About two months later one evening in June I was training around a football pitch in the park, and while running by someone accidentally smashed a football against my leg, it was sore, but I kept running and thought nothing of it. Two days later while warming up for a race I began to limp. I started the race but pulled out quickly, something wasn’t right, my leg wasn’t right, I was cursing this guy in my head, had he caused an injury? Had he jeopardised my sub 3-hour marathon attempt?

After weeks of unsuccessful GP visits and treatments I pushed for an MRI which I got, expecting to hear that I had chipped a bone in my leg I was in for a shock, my GP sat me down, they found a sizeable tumour in my leg and I needed to go in for an emergency full body scan. I don’t smoke, I’m not a drinker, I’m only 32, I’ve never been fitter in my entire life, and I just ran a 3:06 marathon two months ago, how on earth could I have cancer? It couldn’t be!

Turns out it could, I was diagnosed with the aggressive form of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and it had spread throughout my body and up in to my head, it wasn’t good. The tumour in my leg had destroyed my femur so badly that I wasn’t allowed to put my foot to the floor for 6 months for fear of it shattering. I was admitted immediately for treatment. My specialist explained that it was so highly aggressive that they had to treat me very heavily and could only do so because I was so young and so fit. I said to him once you tell me you can fix me up and get me back out running then that’s good enough for me! It turns out that the guy who hit me in the leg with a football didn’t injure me, he saved my life.

I was in hospital for weeks on end for months, but I didn’t want to be seen as just a chart number, so I brought up running photos and stuck them on my wall, I brought up my marathon medals and I hung them over my bed, I wanted the staff to see who I was, a runner, and to see what I loved doing most, running! Everyone seemed very impressed with my running, so it was a great conversation starter. Running was my motivation, it helped keep my focus and determination to get better, so I could get better and get back out there.

After months of chemotherapy and radiation I finally got the all clear early in 2016, I even got back running late that summer, unfortunately just before that Christmas I relapsed, I had only managed 9 months, I was in shock, I had spent months and months recovering and getting fit again to be told this awful news, it was very serious to have relapsed so fast. I was admitted back to hospital and told I had to have treatment again, heavy chemotherapy, full body radiation and a bone marrow transplant.

The scariest part was that I could only have the bone marrow transplant if the chemotherapy and radiation got me back in the all clear again first, thankfully it did because otherwise I would have been in serious trouble. It was an awful few months, but I got through it, and early in 2017 I got the all clear again.

I cannot describe how difficult it was to get through the treatment, to get through the chemotherapy, the radiation, the bone marrow transplant, but I did. Running was a huge part of what helped me beat cancer, twice, and I am now out the other side of it and back running. In 2017 going through the transplant I was already targeting the Dublin Marathon in 2018.

While sick I would love to have been able to meet or chat with another athlete who had been through a similar situation, someone who went through such an incredibly difficult and tough process but who came out the other side, someone to show me that it can be done. I didn’t have that person, but I was determined to get to the other side myself and be that person for others.

To have battled and beaten cancer twice, to have gone through such tough chemotherapy and radiation, all the sickness, the fatigue, the bone marrow transplant, I have come out the other side, and now I am running again. I am registered for the Rock ‘n’ Roll half in Dublin in August which hopefully all going well will be my first half marathon since February 2015. I will also hopefully get to run a marathon again and get to cross the finish line just as I imagined it all those days I was stuck in hospital. I haven’t given up on my sub 3-hour dream either, it will come, in good time.

Having had a recent cancer relapse scare it has made me even more determined and more focused to keep going and progressing with my return to what I love doing most, running. I can’t express how lucky I feel to simply be able to go outside for a run in the fresh air, regardless of the weather.

To have the chance to run this event would be an absolute honour, an absolute pleasure. It would be a dream come true. I would love to be that symbol of hope for others, for other bone marrow transplant patients, for other cancer patients, for others going through difficult times, to show people that there is hope, that you can get through these struggles no matter how difficult and still get back to what you love doing most!”

The Disappointment

I received an email 4 weeks ago saying that my application was being considered for the finals and to send in two photos of myself which I did, I thought that has to be a good sign, at the same time realising that I’m not the only person in this country with an inspiring or difficult story to tell so I was trying to stay grounded about it. However, last night while browsing on a running page I saw the finalists had been posted, I didn’t make the cut. I felt bitterly disappointed, but at the end of the day it was a long shot and there are a lot of incredible stories out there, but it did get me thinking…

My Reflection

It got me thinking, I started blogging nearly a year ago now and I wondered to myself, what have I achieved by doing it? Have I achieved what I wanted to? One of the reasons for me writing this blog is for the cathartic element of it, to just write it down and get it out of my system, get it off my chest, how difficult it’s been for me and how awful it was, and it has certainly helped in that respect.

The other reason, the main reason for writing the blog was because I hoped that by telling my story it might help inspire or motivate someone to get up and get outside and do something positive, to help someone get through something difficult, a difficult diagnosis or difficult stage in their life, to show that you can go through such a difficult period in your life, that you can get knocked down but still stand up, dust yourself off and get going again. Have I done that? I’m not sure yet, but I hope so, someone, anyone, even a single person. A cancer survivor back running, it’s a positive story.

What I do know is that the messages of support I have received since the start have been absolutely amazing, the comments, the emails, the support while out running from people I have never even met before, it’s been humbling to be honest, and for that I want to say thank you, thank you to all of those who take time to read my blogs, who send me messages, emails, comments, prayers, it is greatly appreciated and never forgotten.

To follow me on Instagram search: PROBYC or Chris Proby

To follow me on Facebook search: NEVER GIVE UP


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