Ironman Copenhagen Race Report

Since completing Ironman Copenhagen it has taken me quite a few days to try to process everything. Even now, as I sit down to write this race report, I am uncertain of my ability to convey in words how the whole epic day felt. 

The Why

Why did I need to embark on this whole crazy adventure in the first place? 

Even before my cancer diagnosis I have always been intrigued with endurance sport, long distance triathlon in particular. 

When I competed in Ironman Lanzarote in 2017, I crossed the finish line thinking “I want to do that again but next time I want to be faster.” 

When I heard that a group of athletes from our local triathlon club (Lisburn) would be signing up for Copenhagen 2018 I was all in. 

As the new year  2018 rung in I had it all planned. This time my plan would involve eating healthily and losing a little weight, being consistent with the training and aiming for a faster time rather than just a finish.

When I first discovered a lump it was merely an inconvenience. In my medical head it was nothing more than something benign that just needed confirmed by a doctor and possibly the breast clinic. I continued to train at full speed whilst I was awaiting my first appointment. I remember by last turbo ride before that clinic thinking to myself, “right just need to get this over with so I can get on with training for Copenhagen.” 

As many of you know – that was not to be. I was diagnosed on March 22nd 2018 with stage 2 Breast cancer. I deferred my Copenhagen entry and concentrated on getting through the treatment I needed over the next six months instead. 

Radiotherapy treatment finished just before the guys from the club were going out to race and we decided we would still go out for a holiday and a potential recce of the Ironman course. I was blown away by their performances and also with the atmosphere at Copenhagen 2018. As soon as I could (24 hours after IM Copenhagen 2018) – I used my deferral to enter Copenhagen 2019 and that’s where it all started once again. 

All of a sudden though, my reasons for doing this Ironman had evolved. Don’t get me wrong I still wanted to be faster (if I could handle the training post treatment) but there was something more than that. 

I had exercised all the way through radiotherapy and it was amazing how this made me feel. Those times on my turbo trainer during treatment made me feel strong and helped me gain control during a time when life felt out of control. In a similar vein competing in Ironman Copenhagen was about regaining some of the control I felt I had lost through my diagnosis. 

The Plan

Thankfully I had an ally in Arran from Fusion Triathlon coaching who offered to help me come up with a training plan. No stranger to long distance triathlon, and a guy who helped loads of fellas through Copenhagen 2018, I was very glad to accept his offer. 

What followed was an evolving 32-week plan that took us to the start line. Throughout we didn’t have too many obstacles. I was definitely getting stronger and some successful early season races built confidence that the plan was working. Training for an Ironman though is tough – you border on being obsessive about it and the closer you get to the end the crazier you become. I just want to say thanks to those close to me for accepting that I was a little anti-social during this time. (Plenty more thanks to follow later!)

The 4 weeks prior to race-day were slightly hairy. I actually managed to get shingles and needed to take five days off during a time I just wanted to do some final big miles on the bike. I quickly got over that though and got my last big sessions in and felt good doing them. Two weeks before the race my Mum had to have emergency surgery and that was also a bit stressful but she is so strong and got through it like a pro. If anything, her strength of character made me more determined to go to Copenhagen and do my best.

At this point I am sure you are wondering “when in under of goodness is she going to start writing her race report?” What can I say – I love to talk!

We arrived –  a team of three, my partner, my brother and I – in Copenhagen a few days prior to race day. I was nervous and quiet (unusual for me) and I felt quite tired and lethargic but I was assured by Arran that these were all normal feelings prior to race day. Ruth and Tom were great though and accepted my nervous energy as normal which is good because it couldn’t have felt like much of a holiday going to bed each night at 9pm and drinking water at dinner!!  

Thanks guys. 😉

I went through all the usual steps the days leading up to an Ironman, registration, bike check-in, bag check-in etc and then all of a sudden it was the morning of Ironman. 

Our alarm was set for 4:30am but I didn’t need it – I was awake. I did sleep a little during the night so felt ok getting up and force-feeding myself some cereal, a banana and some instant coffee. Our hotel was only a ten to fifteen minute walk from the swim start so we started out at 5:30am. Despite the warnings of some nasty weather the sky was clear and we could see the sun rising. it was an absolutely beautiful morning. 


I had purchased VIP tickets for Ruth and Tom so they could have some breakfast and get a good spot to watch the swim. When we arrived we found the VIP tent and I gave them both a hug and went to business in the transition area checking my bike and adding my water bottles and nutrition to the frame. Once I was satisfied all was in order I got ready for my warm-up swim, wetsuit on, goggles on. Now I just wanted to get started!! Before jumping in the water I went over to Ruth one last time to give her my spare goggles and water bottle and more importantly to say a final goodbye before embarking on an all-day race.

The warm-up swim was lovely. I had no problem getting in and doing a few warm-up strokes and getting my face wet. They announced around 6am that the temperature was actually 18.3 degrees – positively balmy compared to Camlough lake or the Lagan!! 

After the warm up we were placed in our starting pens ready for a rolling start which would start at 7:10am, ten minutes after the pro-females had started. At this stage I was feeling incredibly calm and ready to go. Five minutes before start time they played this beautiful music across the speakers that gave me those goosebumps you can get at the back of your neck. Then we did a thing called an “Icelandic clap” which was pretty amazing too. The pro females went off on time at 7am and then ten minutes later the age-group race started. I got going about four minutes after that and it was such a lovely way to start an Ironman. I felt like I had clear water the whole swim with nobody really getting in my way or grabbing/punching me. Lovely. 

My plan was clear, this swim was the warm-up to a full day of racing, I wasn’t going to push it and I was going to go at 6/10 effort. It felt good and I felt like I was actually passing people the whole way through the swim. Despite it being a 3800m swim it felt like no time at all before I was turning around the final IM buoy and heading towards the swim exit. Quick check of the watch and it was clocking 59 minutes as I was leaving the water, not bad, happy enough. 

Into transition and I grabbed my cycling gear from the racks. Wetsuit off, cycling jersey and helmet on, feet dried, socks on, shoes on and wetsuit and swim stuff placed into bag and dropped at the bag drop on my way to my bike. Sorted.

The transition was set up for 3200 bikes and my bike was at the very top of transition close to the bike exit so it was quite a run to get to it but I used this time to open a banana and scoff at least half of it before getting to my bike. Bike found and out I go to bike exit with a quick jump on after the mount line and – I’m on my way to conquer the bike course. 

The first bit of the bike is through the city centre of Copenhagen and it was quite technical. I never really felt like I could get the speed up too high during this part but this was no bad thing because it was important for my heart rate to settle after the swim. It wasn’t long before I was on a beautifully smooth coastal road with the wind on my back. I got into an aero position and settled down. The plan for the bike was steady all day. We had a heart rate aim that I stuck to and I wasn’t to venture into the red at all. At times this was difficult because I felt like the entire field was passing me despite my average speed looking to be over 19mph. However,  I rigidly stuck to the plan and kept her steady. 

Subsequently on the second lap I started to meet a few of the people who flew past me at the beginning and I gained a little confidence that my approach wasn’t too left-field.

The bike course is beautiful and the roads are in good condition. You wouldn’t describe it has hilly, more like ‘undulating’ however in comparison to Lanzarote it was flat. I never felt sorry for myself at all during the bike leg, there were times in fact where I was ecstatic at how wonderful it was all going. Your brain can be a little crazy at times during long events like this.img_3844

The best support on the course was at a place called Geels Bakke which essentially was a motorway incline closed completely to traffic. They had bussed supporters out to line either side of this section of the motorway and you could hear the spectators before you could fully see them. The organisers had even provided drums and ‘clackers’ for them to play as the cyclists were climbing the incline. I felt like a superstar climbing that bit and looked forward to the second lap where I could absorb all that energy all over again.

The second lap went pretty much similar to the first lap, although at times the heart rate climbed a little and I had to back it off a bit. I still felt fairly strong though and didn’t hit the inevitable wall I thought I would at around 85 miles when normally I start to think ‘right I’m ready to get off this thing now’. Once I hit Geels Bakke the second time I knew I only had over 30-40 minutes left of cycling and that I would be turning into second transition in no time with 112 miles of bike completed and just the small matter of a marathon to run! As I cycled into the city centre I could see some people had already started their run and that made me excited to finish this leg and start the next one. Into transition, bike handed over to great volunteers and off I trot to the change tent. Quick look at the watch and my bike was done in 5hrs and 54 minutes! Very happy with that. 

Helmet and cycling gear off and changed into tri-suit, sun-cream on face, baseball cap and sun-glasses, new socks and runners. I racked my bag with my cycling gear in it and as I was running out noted the port-a-loos. I thought “better now than having to stop to use one during the run” so did that and then I was off. (If you think that’s too much information I’m sorry but when you need to pee you need to pee and the logistics of doing that during an Ironman can be tricky so there you go!) 

Now the run – where do I even start? Let’s start with my plan, our plan. We had decided way back at the start of the training plan that I was going to adopt a run/walk strategy for the marathon. When I tell this to people they sort of look at me funny and say/think “are you not able to run continuously or something?” Despite my initial worry about this strategy I quickly realised in my long training runs that it was golden. My pace was quicker than that when I was training for Ironman Lanzarote so I had full faith that this tactic would work on the day. 

So the plan was to run for 14 minutes and then walk for 1 minute and repeat that for the first two hours of the marathon. For the second half I would run for 9 min and walk for 1 min and continue that until the finish. 

I felt totally fine starting off running, but when the first mile on my watch showed I completed it in 8 minutes I thought whooaaaa back off, back off I need to be consistent and steady. I backed off a little but the next two miles were 8:30 even including my walk break in the middle. I finally settled into a rhythm that felt consistent and just ticked off the miles. I carried a water bottle with me with the nutrition I had been using through training and would sip at that through my walk breaks and then follow up with a gulp of water through aid stations. 

The support on the course is unreal. It’s a four loop course through the city centre and then out past the famous Gefion fountain and the Little Mermaid towards the cruise-ships and back. Aptly enough you ran along a pier towards one of the turn-around points and there is a little cafe with a sign in pink neon lighting saying THE END. I smiled every time I could see this in the distance because it marked roughly 5km from the city centre and another 5 km back to the start line where we could begin another lap. 

There are spectators at every point throughout the course and the best support was under the fly-over bridges where the drums were playing and people were just shouting support the whole time. There were a few people at random points with their boom boxes and speakers playing motivating music and one in particular sticks out in mind. As we were running along the pier towards the turn-around point there was a gentleman with a massive speaker playing Rocky music and he had his two kids with him (bearing in mind that it rained the whole way through the marathon). This man and his two kids were standing and dancing with whistles blowing as we ran past shouting encouragement. They were all soaked but they were there, every single lap and they were as enthusiastic on my fourth lap as they were on my first. Thank-you!!!

Coming into the city centre was fantastic as well. Ruth had picked a great place to see me at the city centre turnaround so essentially I would come in one side and both her and Tom would be shouting at me and encouraging from that side of the road and as soon as I passed they would sneak across to the other side of the road and be there for me coming back out on the next lap. The boost I got from seeing Ruth (and of course Tom) during that turnaround was fantastic. She kept saying you look so good, you look happy, you are doing this!! It buoyed me for another 5km each time and I’m so thankful for them standing around in the rain lap after lap to give me that boost.

After two hours of running I felt good. The legs were tired but they were still going and my run-walk strategy was working. At this point I knew that the infamous ‘wall’ was a possibility. We had planned for it to start to appear on the third lap and I was mentally prepared. When it didn’t happen at mile 16, 17 or 18 I started to say to myself – “The Wall is not going to get me today.” I repeated this inwardly quite a lot and I kept smiling and kept thinking to myself that I am in control here, I get to choose how I do this, “I get to do this.” I got to 21 miles and thought 5 miles left, any one can run 5 miles. Still no wall. 

When I got to my final turn-around and my fourth wrist band I thought, right this is it, you are going to enjoy every last minute of this run and you will finish strong. “Be brave, believe in yourself, always a little further.”

I also did some mental calculations of my possible marathon time and realised that I was going to be close to four hours! I thought of Arran and how he had told me I could do this, that I was a runner and I also had images of him tracking me at this point and hoped he was loving it!!

I allowed myself another two walk breaks but for the final ten-fourteen minutes of the marathon I ran. As I turned into the city centre and started running towards the finish line a bit of emotion started to bubble up out of nowhere but I was soooooo happy. I could hear the announcers welcoming the other athletes ahead of me home and I was determined to continue to smile and really enjoy the red carpet finish line. As I turned into the finish line in front of the beautiful parliament building I high-fived all the people who would oblige me a high-five and I milked that red carpet! It’s hard to explain in writing the feeling but I was so happy to finish in one piece, to actually enjoy and soak up the atmosphere and most of all to have Ruth place the finishers medal over my head. 


11 hours, 13 minutes and 45 seconds. 

Ironman Copenhagen done. 

The last eighteen months have definitely been a journey and I hope that with finishing this I can wipe the slate clean for a while and move forward. Throughout it all I have been overwhelmed by the messages of support from friends old and new and the encouragement I have received from my triathlon club, my mentor and coach, Arran and from all my absolutely lovely work colleagues (my work family.) 

We have raised such a lovely amount of money for Macmillan Cancer support and I know that this will be put to such good use for those affected by a cancer diagnosis. My diagnosis of cancer is never far from my mind, that’s just the way it is, but I’m lucky. I have support, I have my Ruth and I have my family and friends and I will always be thankful that “I get to do this.” 

Thanks so much for listening. 




Three weeks away and slight hiccup in plan…

Only three weeks to Ironman Copenhagen!!

Training has gone well and I’m confident that I will be ok to start the race and hopefully finish!!!

Fundraising is going well too. I’ve had over £2000 donated through Just-Giving to Macmillan Cancer support and for that I am sooooo grateful. It will definitely keep me going through tough times during the race.

Slight hiccup occurred Friday passed – I got diagnosed with Shingles! Eeeeeek.

Now, it’s mild (I think). I am ok. I am just kicking myself I didn’t diagnose it myself sooner. Perhaps it was because I really didn’t want it to be Shingles.

A rash appeared on my torso a week earlier and I put it down to a sweat rash, as I had been doing lots of long efforts in the heat. (I’ve never had a sweat rash in my life.)

I proceeded to do a long run on the Saturday at a good effort and then did 5 hours on my turbo on the Sunday with the rash covered.

On to a new week and with plans to do my final big weekend before the race I was feeling psyched. Although I was really tired. Rash sort of not getting better, in fact it was sort of extending backwards to my back, all on my right side and not crossing midline.

On the breast cancer side…


Creams, bandages, pay no attention….

Three days later it twigs – this could blooming be shingles!!!! Cue quick phone-call to GP (on a Friday afternoon) and then a quick run to an emergency appointment and – “Yes that’s classic Shingles.”

The good news is that just because it’s on the breast cancer side it doesn’t mean anything nasty is happening. In fact it’s actually 3 times more common to occur in people who have had radiotherapy in previous two years. Also, getting Shingles does not have any bearing on long-term prognosis or risk of recurrence.

For those of you who wondering what Shingles is – it’s reactivation of the virus that causes Chicken Pox. It’s not contagious unless you are in close contact with rash and if you haven’t had Chicken Pox before.

If you’ve never had Chicken pox you can get Chicken pox if you’re in contact with rash in early stages.

If you have had Chicken Pox you can’t catch Shingles from someone else. Just clearing that up.

It can be nasty but my one was mild. Basically the rash appears along the route of a nerve and is usually unilateral so that explains why it only appears on one side and does not cross the midline. It can also be associated with severe nerve pain. Again, my pain is mild. I am lucky.

GP started me on Aciclovir (an anti-viral medicine), and even though I feel ok, I have strict instructions from coach and GP to cool it off for a few days.

I have taken five very easy days of resting, only doing low impact exercise and just trying to convince myself that it’s ok, all the work is done.

I feel loads better but will still play safe this weekend when I’m increasing the mileage for the last time before Copenhagen.

Just thought I’d give you all an update. Will be glad when the deed is done, I have enjoyed training for it but it’s been a lot. I’m conscious that perhaps training for an Ironman isn’t the healthiest thing to do but the bigger picture is the money I am raising for charity and the one-fingered salute I’m giving to cancer. :-))

Thanks for listening.


Passing through the first cancerversaries.

“Cancerversary?” I hear you ask…”You can’t be serious?”

Lol, it is a real thing.

First one to pass was 22nd March – day of diagnosis. Then…

29th March – full biopsy results and discussion of treatment plan…

20th April – Day of surgery.

3rd of May – results of surgery and discussion regarding the potential of needing chemo as well as radiotherapy. (I didn’t need chemo in the end)

It’s serious stuff isn’t it? Although you need to give me a break, after all it has only been one year since it all happened.

I sincerely hope as the years go by (and I’m hoping for many more years without evidence of cancer) that I won’t really pass comment on the dates but it all still feels a little raw in my heart. It’s still hard to believe it happened and I still don’t think there’s a day that goes past in which I don’t think about it at least once. It might be a fleeting thought but it occurs every day.

I’m one of the lucky ones. There are people who are still getting treated and living with cancer.

Anyway – time to make some new anniversaries. On Sunday I will be competing in my first triathlon in nearly 20 months. It’s a pool-based sprint triathlon in my home town of Derry. It’s actually one of the first triathlon’s I ever did nearly fifteen years ago!! I know I’m not as young and fit as I was when I was 22 but I’m looking forward to giving it my best shot.

Training has been going reasonably well for Ironman. I’ve now got 17 weeks under my belt with 15 weeks left. No injuries, no illnesses as yet which is all good. I’ve started doing a little bit of speed-work on the running front as well and am running stronger than I ever have in my life. To be honest I think this is down to just being consistent. If you look at my training diaries on fetcheveryone you will see that in previous years I’ve been a little inconsistent regarding the running.

My next target it to think about nutrition. I have lost very little weight, even with all the training I’m doing. I am a healthy weight, but am heavier than I was last year going through treatment. This could be due to me just eating appropriately and the fact I’m on tamoxifen. I haven’t been sick with any colds or viruses this year which is a good sign, but still I’d like to tighten up the nutritional side of things and make sure I’m eating healthily.

Coach has asked me to come up with some mantras and thoughts to consider when I hit tough patches mentally during the Ironman.

The one that comes to the forefront is “I get to do this”.

I’m so lucky to be able to exercise, to be able to get back into doing the thing I love best – swimming, biking and running. Many others can’t do it because they have bigger fish to fry and don’t have the choice I do. That’s what I will draw on.

I noticed on the Women 4 Tri facebook page today another competitor’s story for IM Copenhagen (IM Copenhagen is the official Women 4 Tri event this year.)

She is raising money for an Motor Neurone Disease (MND) charity because her father was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease earlier this year. She’s done loads of other challenges every month and August is IM Copenhagen. She finishes her story with this winning phrase –

“The ability to push your body to its limits is a luxury. If the only thing holding you back is tired lungs and legs, you’re lucky.”

My sentiment exactly. 😉

Thanks for reading guys.

PS My yearly mammogram on 1st April came back with the all clear. Therefore one year clear ticked off.

I’ve started raising money for Macmillan at this link

8 weeks later…

Ahhhh! I was meant to keep up to date with my blog a bit better than this!
I’m now finishing the first 8 weeks of my plan tomorrow – this being my second recovery week. (Coach and I opted for a three week build followed by a one week recovery week as the foundation of ‘the plan’.)

It’s been going good…I think?
It’s weird following a plan I haven’t written myself. At times it feels very easy (too easy) and then other times I feel a little pressured to do stuff because I don’t want to disappoint my coach who will be watching on training peaks. :-/

All in all though I think this is the better way. I have a tendency to push myself to hard, expect too much of myself whilst paradoxically on the complete flip side I sometimes am so lazy and don’t get out of bed. It’s all or nothing with me. Having Arran help me out has actually made my life much more balanced.

Me and R went to New York and Boston on week 6 of the plan and I was fretting about getting the training in but coach sent me a little message saying to enjoy myself and don’t panic. The important thing was I got my long bikes and long runs in anyway, and I don’t think I suffered for that at all! By the way New York and Boston was fantastic, highly recommend both. If in Boston do the freedom trail, great way to see Boston.

So January and February have some consistent training in the bank and we are on to March.

sporttracks2019124 weeks left to Ironman Copenhagen 2019. No niggles yet but we are going to be pushing the mileage and hours up a bit in the next few weeks so fingers crossed I’m strong for it.

In other news, my parents have booked flights out to Copenhagen and are looking for accommodation now too. I think it might be an emotional finish line with my family and R there but I’ve got to get there first. The focus must remain!

In other other news…I have my first year scan (mammogram) on 1st April. Trying not to feel a bit worried that I’m having it on April Fool’s day. I’ve been anxious for a while about this – not sure if a mammogram is going to be helpful in ruling out any wee nasties but I guess I got to leave this up to the professionals. If there is any doubt they will likely book another scan, like a 3d mammogram or MRI.
If I’m honest I’m slightly less anxious now I have a date for it but am sure the scanxiety will be real closer to the time. It’s literally just an appointment for a scan, there won’t be any results on the day – have to wait a few weeks for that! Scary…ok not thinking about it anymore.

Once I get that over me I’m going to start a just-giving page for my Ironman endeavours. I want to raise money for Macmillan. I’m afraid to start it just yet until I know I’m in the clear. Paranoid and superstitious doesn’t even come in to it!! (It will be 5 months till Ironman so that’s plenty of time to raise a little fundraising money.)

Anyway, that’s my update. I’ve probably missed a lot but will try to be a bit more frequent in my posting for the next few months.

Thanks for listening.

Good to get it done!

So the first week of my plan came with one little hitch.
I’m at a work conference in London for three days…no access to my turbo or bike and although there are swimming pools close by I just don’t have membership and the inside knowledge of when is best to go for a swim! Running is no problem, lots of nice things to look at when running in London.

So…did back to back swims on Monday and Tuesday – job done. Got my easy jog in before I left and managed my first brick session in my hotel gym this evening. 30 minutes on an old school exercise bike and 10 minutes on the treadmill sitting beside it!!
Needs must.

On the plan tomorrow is a 50 minute turbo (back to the hotel gym bike) and then on Friday I have a 30 minute recovery run which I plan to do along the lovely South Bank. (Is that how it’s worded?)
Then back to Northern Ireland for my weekend sessions.

I got this.


Wowee New Year!

Sorry to have been absent for the last few months, I’ve been busy!

Back into the world of work and life after a bit of a turbulent year navigating my diagnosis of breast cancer.

I’m getting on absolutely fine. Work has been busy and I feel I have been coping ok.

My first weekend on-call after returning from sick leave was at the start of December. Once I got this 72 hour call over me I felt more confident that I was capable and able for work. I had several on-call’s prior to this weekend and they were fine but this was the ‘hump’ I needed to get over to increase my confidence again.

As regards exercise and triathlon I have some big goals for this year. I am planning to do Ironman Copenhagen in August.

You may remember it was one of my goals for 2018 but I had to defer my entry due to my diagnosis of breast cancer.

I’ve been taking it relatively easy in December to make sure that I feel motivated at the beginning of my 32 week plan which starts tomorrow!!

A very kind coach, Arran from Fusion Triathlon Coaching, contacted me in early October to ask if I would like help to reach my goals in 2019. He was aware of the whole saga of 2018 and wanted to offer to help me with my training – no obligations attached!

He has been incredibly supportive and has taken some of the worry away regarding planning and executing an Ironman training plan. Base phase starts tomorrow for the next ten weeks. This is part of the reason I’m writing my blog after a few months of a hiatus. I want to try and document how the plan is going in my usual honest way!

There will be of course other races and challenges on the way but I will update as and when I know what they will be!! Happy New Year one and all. I hope 2019 brings you love, health and happiness.

Back to normal…

Turned a corner this last week. I am now officially off ‘the sick’ and back at work on a phased return.

It’s been going great so far. My manager (who currently is on leave following his own father’s death) had my phased return planned before he left for home and occupational health gave their input too.

No on-calls for the phased return, which lasts four weeks. I’m 50% the first week (which was last week), 75% the middle two weeks and then back to 90% the final week.

Then all being well I’m back to normal again.

It’s good being back to work again but I’m mindful that I need to watch out for the minor stresses that used to grind on me before going off sick. We work across two hospital sites and, unfortunately there’s occasional friction between the workers of both places. This drives me slightly insane, because I generally get on well with everyone and am happy to work hard but this constant background of simmering tension takes it’s toll on everyone. In this situation it’s usually those who are happy to work and are nice people that get shat upon. However, that’s all I’m going to say about that. I need to remember my new-found perspective on life in general since the cancer diagnosis and that means definitely not sweating the small stuff. Not worth it.

On the exercise front I’m keeping at it. I’ve officially been back at running for 8 weeks, after about a 16 week lay-off due to treatment etc. The pace is not lightning but I’m really just focusing on keeping it very easy aerobic for now. I’ve plenty of time until next triathlon season and Ironman Copenhagen isn’t for another 45 weeks (who’s counting?).

The swimming is ok, definitely got back into that a littler quicker than the running and my biking is good. I feel strong for having stayed on the turbo the whole way through cancer treatment. I’ve been out on social rides the last few Sundays with the triathlon club and it’s been great.

I’m starting to feel normal again. I don’t remember every waking minute that I’ve had cancer now because there are other things distracting me. I still remember every day but it’s nice not to be thinking about it constantly. With the passage of time, and clear scans (fingers crossed) hopefully those episodes of recounting the whole saga will start to dissolve slightly. We are definitely moving forwards and that can only be a good thing.

Onwards and upwards. Hopefully going to see the lovely parental unit this weekend with partner and pup’s in tow. Then will look forward to a holiday in Lanzarote (one of my favourite places) in a few weeks time. Always good to have things to look forward to. :-)

Line in the sand…

I’ve been meaning to write another blog post for a while but have not quite got around to it.

There has been a lot of discussion about cancer in the media in the week following Rachael Bland’s death from secondary breast cancer. This has brought up some raw feelings within me again. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just has made me realise that I haven’t allowed myself to fully heal both emotionally and mentally from the ordeal the last six months has brought.

What Rachael Bland and her colleagues, Deborah James and Lauren Mahon have achieved in the past six months through their podcast #YouMe&theBigC  is unbelievable and truly amazing. They’ve opened the door on talking about cancer and all that it involves. I’ve listened now to every one of the podcasts, and whilst I couldn’t listen during my treatment I’m glad I finally got around to it. The discussions they have had are frank, honest and humbling. These girls are strong!! They really don’t leave any stone unturned. My favourite episodes were their very first one, “About Us” and then “About the Head” and “About the Nearest and Dearest”. All of them are good and all worth listening too.

So inevitably in listening to these podcasts I’ve had many thoughts about cancer and my own diagnosis and, for want of a better word, ‘journey’ over the past six months.

Alistair, Lauren’s dad, was a guest speaker on the show and talked about drawing a line in the sand which happens at diagnosis. You imagine drawing this hypothetical line in the sand at diagnosis and then stepping over it and bringing all your loved ones with you. That’s it…you can’t step backwards once that line has been crossed. It’s symbolic of – that life is never going to be the same as it was before.

It really isn’t going to be the same. Yes, the diagnosis of any cancer is devastating, and yes in the early stages I just wanted to go back across my line and be the person I was before. I grieved tremendously for that person. However, there are positive things about ‘the line.’

So in a way this blog is about my positives. (Of which the girls have done a podcast about too!! Listen to it.)

Whilst I appreciated life before (and I really loved my life) I love it all the more!

I appreciate every single day. Yes, there are days that I feel tired and I’m not able to do all I want to do but I’m so happy to be here. That’s a simple one to begin with. I love my partner. I love where we live. I love my family. I cherish every single puppy snuggle I get from my dogs. I love my friends and my work colleagues, and I love that I am still able to do all the things I did before diagnosis. I can still run (albeit more slowly), swim, cycle, walk, travel to foreign countries, drive my beautiful car. The list is endless actually.

Perspective changes your priorities.

You get a very healthy dose of perspective when you’re faced with your own mortality. We all have to face our mortality some time, but at 36 yrs of age when you think you’re pretty much invincible and someone tells you – ‘you got cancer,’ it puts things into perspective pretty sharpish. The most notable change for me was realising that for too long a time I have worried about what people think of me. That’s just ridiculous. It’s such a waste of time and energy. So what did this change of attitude bring about? Well I’ve been living in a semi-closet for most of my life and all of a sudden I just stepped out of it. Fuck that, I’ve cancer who gives a rat’s arse anymore what people think of me for being with another girl!!! Imagine that! Cancer trumps being gay any day. That aside, I actually do hope to continue to live being the real me, warts and all for the rest of my life. I don’t want to worry about what other people think, it’s their problem to sort out, not mine.

Joining the cancer community. 

The cancer community is unbelievable. I’ve met some amazing individuals through having cancer and am totally humbled by the work of volunteers and health-care staff working in any of the cancer units and areas. They truly are the best sort of people. I’ve also met a lot of other cancer patients, those who are living well with secondary cancer and those who have been through a similar situation to me, that is have been given the all clear for now. Don’t worry we don’t all sit around talking about cancer, sometimes we talk about anything but!! There is therapy in talking to people who have been through what you’ve been through and I’m very grateful to be part of this community, as grim as it sounds – the club no-one really wanted to be part of!

Learning to live in the present.

I’m still working on this one but I’m definitely better than I was before diagnosis. There is only the present, the past is gone and the future isn’t here yet. It sounds so bloody obvious!! However, we spend so much time worrying about the future or yearning for the past, that we don’t live in the moment and that is incredibly distressing. I’m working on my ‘being here now’ stance and I don’t think I ever would have worked on that had it not been for my diagnosis. Mindfulness is great and classes like Yoga and Pilates that focus on breathing also are something that are helping with this philosophy.

Strengthening your inner circle. 

Dear dear, it really sounds like I’m getting a bit buddha like here. What I’m trying to express here is that your inner circle of family and friends really come to the fore when you become unwell. I am still blown away by the absolutely amazing group of people who surrounded me and showered me with love, prayers and support after my announcement of breast cancer. I feel closer to my family than I have done in years. I have a small group of university friends who stepped up to the bat. I received flowers, presents, thoughtful gifts from work colleagues and friends and endless offers of support. My best friend came straight to our house as soon as she found out (that is the day of my diagnosis) and had a cuppa and a cry with me.

The most important person of all however, is my beautiful partner. She literally has been the rock at my side the whole way through this shit-storm and she’s been through it all too. Every rock-bottom, every break-down, every fearful disintegration into tears. I’m so proud of her and am so thankful I get to have her as my person. I am lucky.


There are probably loads more positives out there, they just haven’t come to mind during the writing of this blog. I just wanted to share because I do think it’s important to continue this dialogue about cancer and to appreciate those people who have opened those doors.

1 in 2 of us will have a diagnosis of cancer in our lifetime and it’s ok to talk about it. It’s important to talk about it, because it raises awareness, it makes people check themselves, go to the doctor sooner about worrying symptoms and also normalises the word cancer.

Thanks for reading to the end!! That was a bit of an essay. 🙂

Starting again with baby steps.

I’m glad to say that I’m back at the exercise and have been for a few weeks.

I managed to get on my turbo at least five times a week all through radiotherapy and I think it did me the world of good.

The running started about three weeks ago and I thought about trying the Maffetone method of keeping my heart rate very low. Using his equations I got my MAF rate to be 133, which is extremely low, however surprisingly my min/miles have gone from a near walking 12:30min/mile to a 10:40min/mile in a matter of weeks. I am going to allow it to drift up to 138 for my steady runs now and will likely add in a little tempo runs over the next few weeks but the majority of runs will be keeping it low and slow!!

I did a long run of 6.2miles today and the sun was shining and my face was smiling and I just couldn’t stop with the goofy smile. I waved at all the cars passing me and even tried high-fiving a mum who was running with her child. I think she thought I was mad but she did put her hand out just at the last minute, although we didn’t quite make contact. Lol.

What has also buoyed me on in the exercise routine is returning from our long weekend in Copenhagen where we watched Ironman. I was meant to be doing it this year, but after my diagnosis had to defer my entry. No matter, we still made a holiday of it and I also got to support 17 wonderful team-mates from Lisburn Triathlon Club who all lined up on the day and did themselves proud. Suffice to say they inspired me to use my deferral and enter the race next year. Save the date – 18/08/2019.

I’m moving on. I have one more appointment next week to investigate a smaller lump that appeared post-op which we think is a thrombosed vein.

Yes it’s scary that I have to go back to the clinic where it all started but my logical brain is telling me that “it is, what it is, and not what I fear”.

This is what I am going to have to get used to…scanxiety and fear of recurrence. It’s never going to go away but…I can’t let it stop me doing all the things I want to do. There are soooooo many things I want to do!! The future is bright no matter what happens and I am so thankful to be able to get back to doing the things I love and to look forward to the future I have, no matter what happens.

Life is precious. I’m so happy to be here.


(These are some of the wonderful Ironmen from my club, the last evening of our trip walking into the sunset in beautiful Copenhagen) img_0883-effects

Final stages and looking forward…

Back from holiday this week.

It was a wonderful break. I was a bit ‘angsty’ for the first few days until I got a phone-call from the hospital to tell me my radiotherapy planning appointment would be the day after I got back.  I was then able to relax and put all life at home to the back of my mind. Wonderful.

We did nothing but go for nice ambling walks into the town where we were staying, ate nice food, drank really nice wine and chilled for the whole two weeks. No exercise apart from some sea swims (no longer than 30min) and walks.

Since I’ve been back I have merely walked the dogs. There hasn’t been any organised form of exercise just yet but I think my body is happy enough with that.

My radiotherapy planning appointment involved speaking to a very lovely oncologist who discussed how radiotherapy works and what side effects I may expect.   The most common side effect will be skin irritation and I have to stick to a protocol of moisturising with a cream given to me by the radiotherapy team. It also means I need to avoid any exercise that might irritate the skin further – such as swimming in a chlorine pool. (Will need to ask about open water but think I might have to rule out any returns to swimming just yet.)

Technically I probably could jog but it might not be comfortable.

I’m relying on doing some gentle spinning on the turbo just to keep me sane but I will listen to my body and let it tell me how much it can cope with.

Radiotherapy starts next week for four weeks (or 20 sessions). As far as I understand – it will be three weeks of radiotherapy to general area and then one week of ‘boost’ radiotherapy where they target the operation site (ie where the tumour lay) specifically. Unbeknownst to me they have left some little clips in the tumour bed to identify it easily on scanning so that they can be very exact when they target their radiotherapy rays. (Isn’t medicine is amazing?)

I feel ready for it. I’m trying to decide if I’m anxious but I really don’t think I am. I want to get it done. I want to move on.

As regards moving on, I think it’s important to move on from it all mentally too. It hasn’t really been the easiest of rides and actually the mental side of it all has possibly been the hardest.

I’ve joined different internet forums in which you get advice from other people who have gone through very similar situations and they’ve been so helpful. I’ve been able to manage my expectations and learn some hints and tips for getting through the whole cancer treatment and for that I’m very grateful. Once this is all finished though, I don’t know that I can stay on those forums. I’ve thought about this very carefully and I want to focus on my future. I don’t want to be constantly thinking about it or have it forever at the back of mind. To be fair, it will probably always be at the back of my mind regardless, but to continue to talk about it on internet forums and the like will not be conducive to moving on. For me.

In a similar vein, apart from this post and possibly a post during or after radiotherapy I don’t think I’m going to keep talking about cancer.

What I will do and what I will talk about is health and fitness and living a good life. Living the best life.

I will likely talk about my next sporting goals and in an effort to give something back I will raise money for relevant charities. I feel that is what is going to work for me.

Looking forward – I can’t wait to get back to the drawing board and rewrite myself. Whilst I’ve been given the extra time this season I might try the Maffetone method (a friendly LTC colleague suggested it). However, it means my maximum heart rate works out at 133!!! So get ready for some very slow sessions appearing on Strava over the next few weeks. No slagging please.

That’s my update for now. Feeling strong. As always thanks for all your support, you are all legends. 🙂