“If we could turn the benefits of exercise into a pill, it would be demanded by patients, prescribed by every cancer specialist and subsidized by government. It would be seen as a major breakthrough in cancer treatment.”
Dr Prue Cormie – author of the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia’s statement on Cancer and Exercise Guidelines
The day I was diagnosed with cancer of the lung, I went on a 10 mile run. The next day, I ran further than that and the next day even farther. I wanted to run as far as I could from the grim statistics associated with my disease. Well, it has been three years since that day and so maybe all that running paid off.
But this is not an “alternative therapy” or “miraculous remission” story. I was very fortunate, if you can say that about a lung cancer diagnosis. The tumor was large, malignant and in a difficult position but had not metastasized so could be treated surgically. I received expert treatment at a leading specialist heart and lung hospital – the Royal Brompton– and had a top-notch surgeon, Mr Simon Jordan. And yet, I am convinced that exercise deserves some of the credit for my making it this far.
Since cancer was such a big and frightening opponent, I needed a big and challenging goal to take it on. So one year after surgery to remove the tumor, I ran the Los Angeles Marathon with my youngest son. That was pretty kick-ass and made me feel better about my chances. Two years after treatment, I walked 569 miles through Britain along the Bryson Line to raise funds for the Royal Brompton Hospital. That was even more therapeutic than the marathon and not just because it took a month instead of a day. There is powerful healing that goes on when walking with others in nature. Walk, eat, sleep, repeat. Don’t think too much and remember, that there are others whose problems are even larger than your own.
This past Saturday, I participated in the first anniversary walk along the Bryson Line, this time 16 miles from Hanborough, in West Oxfordshire, through the grounds of resplendent Blenheim Palace to the dreaming spires of Oxford. A special group of Bryson Line supporters and walkers, including Bill Bryson and his wife Cynthia were there. For some, the 16 miles was a massive challenge but I loved watching the pride everyone took in going the distance.
And we raised over £2,000 that will be used to create a website making available the 30 walks, each representing a day on the Bryson Line. Think of it as an online trail guide. We also want to work with local authorities, hospitals and other charities to promote walking the Bryson Line as a means to improve health and aid recovery after illness.
If you would like to participate in this effort, please contact us on Facebook, Twitter or just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you. And if you would like to donate to the project, we’d love to put your money to good use – because good health and good walks go together. I’m living proof of that.