Sunday 10 October 2021

The one where I break the cardinal rule of marathons...

 "Nothing new on race day"

Most people who have done a marathon share these two rules:
  1. Pace yourself, don't go off too quickly at the start
  2. Nothing new on race day (no new shoes, clothes or food)
The first rule wasn't too difficult; the group that I started with was large and not particularly fast, so I managed to track my target pace on the Garmin.... all good.

Turning into Woolwich, the emotion set in, crowds of people lined the streets to cheer us all on. Kids giving out high-fives, pubs blaring dance music from their windows, bands playing to the masses and strangers handing out sweets, slices of orange and encouragement.

This is when you forget the nerves and settle into your rhythm, all of your training has been for this, and it's a chance to enjoy the fruits of your labour. 

As you know, I'd written the names of cancer-battling loved ones on my arm, one for each mile, and as the race progressed, I developed a system of checking the name each time I ran under a mile marker. This kept my spirits up and reminded me what this is all for. 

Nathan had the genius idea of circling the miles where he would be waiting with Erica. This REALLY helped, it gave me something to look forward to, and the hugs were precisely what I needed. 

Tower Bridge is roughly halfway, and this is a game-changer. As you turn the corner to cross the bridge, the noise of the crowds hits you like a train, people scream your name, the sun is shining, and London looks incredible. I'm getting choked up just thinking about it; this was the high point of my race. 

After Tower Bridge, you turn right onto the highway, you hit mile 13 and come face to face with runners going the other direction who are hitting mile 22. They look tired, and they're the fast ones; what the bloody hell have I signed up for?

People warned me about mile 14; this is when the roads narrow and you head towards the docklands where there will be fewer crowds, and the legs will start to ache. I'd been regularly taking on energy gels and water but spotted a Lucozade station and thought, "it's a mass-market drink, I'm sure it's fine" that was a stupid thing to do.

I genuinely don't remember anything about miles 15 to 18; I remember reaching mile 19 and thinking. "I don't feel so good". I will spare you the details of what happened next; suffice to say that the portaloos don't have toilet paper, and I lost a considerable amount of time trying to sort myself out.  

Through Poplar, I started to feel better, I was told to look out for Run Dem Crew at Limehouse, and they did not disappoint. 

Next up, the Limehouse link tunnel. Someone said, "we don't talk about what happens in that tunnel". It appears just after mile 21 and sucks the life out of everyone who enters. 

There are no crowds; it's hot sticky, smelly and full of people who, like me, wonder what the f**k they were thinking signing up for this. 

.... and then you hear the band... they're at the exit of the tunnel... drawing you away from the despair and closer towards mile 23 "... hang on... why does the marker say mile 22? 

Shit.... my Garmin says I have done 23 miles..." I had forgotten about this, you run further than 26.2 miles on marathon day as you're weaving around people, finding toilets etc. 

This part was challenging for me, one extra mile doesn't sound like much, but when your legs and lungs are screaming, and you want to throw up but are worried you will poop your pants if you do.... one extra mile feels like another marathon!

Thousands of people lined the embankment and the approach to the Houses of Parliament; I'd love to say I enjoyed this part but am ashamed to admit that I just wanted it all to be over. 

In hindsight, I understand the selfless intention they all had to get us over the final hurdle, and I'm eternally grateful. I thought the Breast Cancer Now team were going to explode with excitement, and they gave me another much-needed reminder of what this was all for. 

The journey home was beautiful, people on the train gave up their seats as I clung onto my hypothermia blanket, and they were kind enough not to complain about the smell. 

One week on, the legs are less sore, although the toes are an attractive shade of purple, and most toenails are in the process of falling off.

It was an incredible experience, and I'm so grateful for your support of £5,000 and climbing. THANK YOU. There is still time to donate and help to fund research to help stop breast cancer from killing 1,000 women each month in the UK.


Friday 1 October 2021

Ten things I learned about training for a marathon

 Ten things I learned training for a marathon

887 days ago, I watched the 2019 London marathon on TV and decided to sign up; the coronavirus made every effort to disrupt many best-laid plans to run the 26.2 miles around our iconic capital city.

Last year I walked the distance along the Icknield trail and am now looking forward to joining 45,000 other souls at the start line at Blackheath with a mix of excitement, anticipation and fear.

I've had plenty of time to think about the big day and have been pondering what I've learned over nearly 900 days of planning. 

  1. You find yourself only capable of talking about running - I remain eternally grateful to my long-suffering coworkers. They have endured hours of conversations about weekend runs, nutrition plans and marathon nerves. Likewise, friends and family have cheered in encouragement as dates grow near and offered consolation when plans move. The long and short of it is this - humans are awesome.                                                                                                                                                                                 
  2. Trail running is very different to running on a road - this was an early and unfortunate lesson. It turns out that running on trails requires ankle and core strength that I simply didn't have in the early days of my training, and I quickly ended up with a very painful fractured pelvis which scuppered training (and my ability to wear heels) for a while.                                                     
  3. There are far more footpaths near your home than you realise - I'm still finding them! The Ordnance Survey App is probably one of the best apps you can download. It shows you all of your local footpaths, byways and bridlepaths. Perfect for when the same old loop gets boring.                                                                                                                                                  
  4. Dogs make brilliant training buddies - as soon as Milo was old enough, we started running together. We built his distance up over time to avoid damaging his joints and haven't looked back. I love running with him; he's such brilliant company.                                                    
  5. Dogs don't make you go faster - I've lost count of the number of people Milo and I run past who shout, "that's cheating". Milo may be great company, but he's not a proper canicross dog. He gets distracted by squirrels, cats, lampposts, bins and people outside pubs (especially if they have crisps). That said, he is pretty handy with hills.                                                                                                   
  6. Rigid training plans are a thing of the past - Training plans powered by AI are here; are they effective? I'll tell you on Monday!                  
  7. Toenails are over-rated - the less said about that, the better. Unfortunately, I've lost them all; it's not pretty.                                                     
  8. Sleep is over-rated - peeling yourself out of a warm bed at 4.30am to do a 15 mile run before work isn't anyone's idea of fun. Showing your colleagues the incredible sunrise photos as you recount your adventure while they rub a hangover out of their eyes feels pretty damn smug.                                                                        
  9. No, you can't eat whatever you like - a 15-mile run = 1,697 calories. Five Guys burger, fries and milkshake = 1.800 calories.                                 
  10. Stay away from sugar-free jelly beans - the less I tell you about that, the better.

As Sunday draws near, I just wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone who has supported me through all of this. For your sponsorship, encouragement and for enduring my tales of endurance, I am eternally grateful.

There's still time to sponsor me and help to raise funds to stop breast cancer in its tracks. Click here


Saturday 3 October 2020

Well, this has been odd.....

As you know, the 40th London marathon was due to take place in April but COVID19 swiftly put a stop to that idea. It was moved to October but the opportunity for 40,000 of us to participate in our nation's capital has since been thwarted.

I have requested a deferred place in Oct 2021 and, if I'm honest, slacked off on the training. Out of the blue, Breast Cancer Now got in touch and offered me a virtual place - WTAF is that?

As a virtual participant, you can complete the 26.2 miles wherever and however you choose as long as it is done on 4th October and tracked via the app. I am keen not to injure myself so have decided to walk 26.2 miles along the Icknield Way which (rather conveniently) passes through our village.

I must admit, I'm feeling a little guilty for not running it but figured that this option means that I have the hound to keep me company and will limit injury to allow me to train through the winter.

If you would like to add your support then please do so here. I will update with photos of countryside and blisters tomorrow. 

Thank you #fightlikeagirl


Sunday 19 January 2020

100 days and counting

Happy new year, it’s been a busy couple of months since the big remission news, so much has happened and there is still so much to do. They say that it’s easier to eat an elephant when it is broken into chunks - here are the chunks of everything that’s swilling around my brain:

66 days in remission
This is a tough feeling to describe. It’s almost impossible to believe that this time five years ago I was receiving an emergency chest-drain courtesy of an infection that had developed from the mastectomy. Fast-forward five years to today where we took Erica to rugby training, had a lovely coffee in the Ely sunshine and I went for a run around the gorgeous frozen fenland that surrounds our village.
 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon image 3
I always try to remember to be thankful for all of the second chances that I’ve been given. It’s great to be in remission but it is also a little scary. No longer will I have the six-monthly CT scans to search for any reoccurring cancer. From now on, scans will only be performed if I present with symptoms which puts the responsibility for spotting new symptoms squarely on my shoulders. Separating muscle aches from anything sinister is a challenge when you’re training for a marathon! Speaking of which…..
100 days till the marathon
Before you have the pedantic need to correct me, yes, it's actually 98 days until the marathon but that doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

I've never done a marathon (or even a half marathon) before and was massively overwhelmed until a lovely friend suggested that I watched "Brittany Runs a Marathon", a hilarious and motivating true story which is a must for anyone taking on a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)

My plan is to train well enough to be able to enjoy the atmosphere of the day itself. I am staggered by how many people are planning to make the journey into London and cheer me on, this helps in the dark training days, speaking of which....
350km training complete
Who the bloody hell decided to put the London marathon at the end of April? Yes, it will probably be a lovely spring day for many participants and spectators but it requires training through the WINTER!

For anyone who hasn't noticed, winter is cold, dark and scary. A colleague at work suggested a brilliant AI app called "Train as One". It creates a bespoke training plan and adjusts it based on your performance.

However, over the last couple of weeks it has royally been doing my head in. It keeps on planning looooong and slooooow runs which I have to complete at night in the deserted and scary country lanes surrounding our village where I am constantly convinced that I am about to be murdered. I was about the chuck the whole plan in the bin until..... 
A surprise 1st place
I won a Park Run....!!!

Well, that's not strictly true, I came first place out of 19 other women in my age group. ParkRuns are awesome, a whopping 700 of them take place at 9am every Saturday morning all over the country. It's free to take part and they open to people of all abilities (which is probably why I won) take a look at this link to find your nearest event.
7 days sober
After winning my age category and knocking two whole minutes off my PB, it was no surprise that the likely accelerator was seven days of preceding sobriety. I had to face reality and have given up booze for the marathon.

Those of you who know me well are aware that this is a regular flip flop for me, I tend to quit for 3/4 of the year and then fall unceremoniously off the wagon again. Well, in the words of my fantastic dad "it's easy to quit, I've done it hundreds of times".
£675 raised
If giving up my beloved Rioja isn't enough of a reason to sponsor me then how about donating a little cash to get me through 26.2 miles (not counting the many hundreds of miles I will do in training).

We've raised £675 so far, Ocado have promised another £500. My folks and their lovely friends from our gorgeous Devonion community are working tirelessly to host fundraising dinners, sell greeting cards and generally motivate me to get my fat arse out of my warm bed at 4.30am to get out there and run my socks off.

If you are able to help us out then please do so through this link. Every single penny will go towards Breast Cancer Now who are working around the clock to develop all sorts of treatments and early diagnosis breakthroughs with the aim of stopping breast cancer in its tracks. 
For the doubters
There are people who say that I won't make it to the marathon. Unsurprisingly, they are the same people who disappeared when I was diagnosed.

Those who doubt make me more determined. I'd like to thank the doubters for making me stronger but I'm saving my energy for the real friends and family who have supported us all along.

We will show you!


Thursday 14 November 2019

The results are in....

First of all, I have been blown-away by the messages of support, not just yesterday but throughout the last five years. Today I was given the news that my cancer is in remission and I can get on with my life. The cocktail of regular medication and injections will stay as long as I can tolerate them and we’re not yet allowed to speak of the condition being cured but I am happy to have made it this far.
It will be impossible to thank every single person who helped me to get to this point, you know who you are and you know how much it means - from my amazing friend Pip who dashed over to the cancer centre with her babies so that she could attend the appointment with me, to Michelle, the radiologist who waited for my appointment to be over so that she could give me a hug and say goodbye. 
Now what?! In typical de Louvois fashion I am marking the occasion with a bang. I wanted to do something positive with this experience and to help other women who may be embarking on this journey themselves. I also want to do everything I can to ensure that our beautiful daughter never has to face this wretched disease. I can do this by raising cash and spreading the word so I am delighted to announce that I have secured a place in the 2020 London Marathon, running for Breast Cancer Now.
As many of you know, I fell in love with running during my treatment as I could do it at my own pace and it provided me with a daily challenge. I want to continue running, to push myself to get better and to raise vital funds for breast cancer research. If you would like to sponsor me, you can find my fundraising page here. There is no pressure at all, just continuing to read the blog and sharing it with women who are being ignored by their GP’s is enough for me, if this collection of ramblings saves at least one life then I am a happy girl.
So all in all, thanks for your support and apologies in advance for the sweaty next chapter.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

The Remission Scan

Well, here we are! I have been watching the flashing cursor for the last 20 minutes drawing a total blank. I’d forgotten just how much I loved writing this blog and, in turn, have forgotten how to write it. Here’s a recap for those of you who may be new to this hub of narcissism and also for those of you with a short memory. In true transformation-leadership style, I have created a timeline to support the narrative.

In a nutshell, I found a lump in September 2014, fought tooth and nail to be taken seriously, eventually got a diagnosis on new years eve and then jumped on the bandwagon of modern science; six operations, six months of chemo, 40 rounds of radiotherapy, six months of bisphosphonate infusions and hormone therapy, topped-off with a chemically induced menopause.

I am immensely happy with the reconstruction, it’s given me a new lease of life both in terms of confidence and the discovery of dormant cancer cells that the surgery uncovered. Once the shock of the recurrence receded, I was lucky enough to be offered state-of-the-art precision radiotherapy at Addenbrooke's hospital which blasted the little bastards whilst avoiding my heart and lungs.

This journey has been tough. When I look back at the blog I cringe at just how much I was trying to put on a brave face over the fear and the pain. It’s been tough on my marriage, my family, my friendships and on my career. We have all had to work really hard to keep this together but I’m confident that we will come through and we’ll be stronger for it.

So here we are, I've been having CT scans every six months to check on progress. Today's scan marks five years since diagnosis and, if clear, moves me into the remission category. Every scan is terrifying, they remind you just how complacent you have become with the second chance that you've been offered and just how much you desperately want to live. 

This moment felt like a fitting way to move this blog onto the next chapter and to offer a reminder for all of us to be grateful for the life that we have. Cancer is an expert at providing perspective. I’m sitting in a cafe with the familiar feeling of dread, psyching myself-up to walk over to the shiny-new specialist cancer centre in Newmarket, don the gown and get this done.

Promise to update with the results tomorrow - prayers of all denominations gratefully received.

Thank you x

Thursday 15 December 2016

The one where cancer tries to ruin Christmas

The last seven days have been the most sobering reminder yet of just how much can change in a week.

Since my last update I'm pleased to report that I've been recovering really well (aside from the norovirus) and continue to be astounded by the results of my surgery. With this in mind I went along to my follow-up appointment with Prof. Malata so that he could take a look at the scars and tell me off again for doing too much moving around.

The appointment went really well and as he cleaned-up I made the fateful mistake of commenting on the wonderful end this has been to my cancer journey..... as soon as I saw him exchange worried looks with the nurse and sit down my heart went into my mouth. I heard him say "we found some more cancer" and remember nothing else. I went into a wild panic and just wanted to just wake up from this nightmare, how the hell can it be back? I've done everything I can to keep it at bay, it's Christmas, what am I going to tell Nathan, Erica, my family?

He explained that he'd opened-up my ribcage to locate the blood vessels for the reconstruction and noticed a swollen lymph node which he removed and sent for testing - the results of which came back as cancerous. He then explained that I'd need a scan to identify whether or not the cancer is spreading to the rest of my body and to allow the team to agree a treatment plan.

As many of you know, metastatic breast cancer has a poor survival rate and I spent the entire journey home wondering how I was going to start a new job in the midst of cancer treatment with no idea how I was going to contribute to the mortgage. Weirdly enough, the prospect of dying didn't really phase me that much, the prospect of leaving Nathan and Erica in limbo was terrifying.

When I got home I broke the news to Nathan and only then did I give myself the opportunity to cry (wailing banshee is probably a better description), that evening was Erica's nativity performance in Ely Cathedral and we prayed our hearts out throughout. The next morning I talked to my oncologist and we agreed the arrangements for the scan.

By Tuesday the following week, Mum and I made our way to Cromwell hospital in London for the PET CT scan - it's an incredible piece of medical wizardry - they starve you for 12 hours then inject you with glucose and radioactive isotopes, because cancer cells feed on the glucose first, they are the ones that show up on the scan, the whole process takes around 90 minutes and I didn't stop praying throughout!

Anybody who has been through cancer will tell you that the next bit is the absolute worst..... the waiting. The thing I find hardest is the knowledge that someone has seen your result and the longer it goes the more you convince yourself that it's a much bigger treatment plan. To take my mind off it I went for dinner the following day with my awesome Mummy friends and our sprogs after the Cathedral carol service (filled with more praying). They did such a good job of distracting me that I forgot about the results..... until I checked my phone...... six missed calls, five from Nathan and one from my oncologist...... another heart in mouth moment. I found a quiet corner and phoned Nathan, as soon as he started to reprimand me for ignoring the phone I knew that it was good news, he'd stalked Dr Russell all day and had tracked him down late in the evening to receive the news that the scan showed NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE!!!!!!

The rest is a blur as my friends and I ordered wine and didn't stop drinking! I am sitting at the breakfast table with a very sore head and a refreshed perspective on life. What if Prof. Malata hadn't spotted that rogue lymph? What if I hadn't stopped drinking? None of this can be fate, can it? Is anyone really ever this lucky?

What I know for sure is that I'm going to celebrate Christmas like I never have before and can't wait to spend it with my amazing family and friends who have lived this with me everyday and never left my side.

Please go and give your loved-ones a massive hug, life is precious.