In our latest blog, Shine volunteer Conor meets Charlotte – a Shine member who ran the Royal Parks half-marathon to raise money for Shine in 2019.
In January 2017, Charlotte Rowe, who was an NHS graduate trainee at the time, was hit with some shocking news. Symptom-free, fit and healthy, except for feeling “a bit lumpy”, she was informed that she had Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She had to leave her course immediately to undergo four months of ABVD chemotherapy and move back home with her parents in Wales. Fast forward to the present day: we met up in London so I could ask her about what it was like to run the Royal Parks Half-Marathon for Shine Cancer Support, raising more than £1,500 in the process.
I met Charlotte at Picturehouse Central on Shaftesbury Avenue, a movie theatre at heart, but with a comfy upstairs bar area where young and older types come to work on their startups and chat purposefully. Charlotte’s been a friend of mine for the past year and she agreed to meet and talk about what it was like being an unenthusiastic runner yet wanting to challenge herself in a new way for a charity that grew to mean a great deal to her.
“I used to play a bit of netball when I was at uni and I had started running a bit more before I was diagnosed. I was never particularly fit but I was always trying stuff,” she said. All exercise went out the window once treatment started, though. She was reacting well to the medication and drugs, but had a reasonable fear that doing any form of strenuous outdoor activity would lead to an infection or mess up the good thing she had going. In the process, she gained a stone and became a “couch potato”.
“I was constantly scared I was going to lose my appetite so I just ate every meal like it was my last meal, scared my taste buds would go. And I was eating everything I liked the taste of, worried I’ll never taste again (a common side effect of chemotherapy). Basically, I just lived a very nice life, actually,” she said wryly.
Fortunately, Charlotte was told that she was responding fully halfway through her course of chemotherapy. She then moved back down to London and started to work again. Originally hearing of the Royal Parks half-marathon through Shine, she sent a message to a number of her friends asking if they would do it, not actually considering doing it herself – until one responded by saying that she’d run it, but only if Charlotte did, too. (It was March, 2018).
“I couldn’t really think of a decent enough reason not to do it. My aim was to finish in under three hours, knowing I wasn’t going to be able to run the whole thing. I really enjoyed having a bit of routine and training.”
Charlotte managed to get under the time she wanted, thanks to a new-found ability to power-walk.
“I felt there were other people who were around my standard on the day of the event. I didn’t feel at the back. I ran a third of it probably, but actually learned that I’m really good at walking quickly.
“The half-marathon confirmed to me that my fitness was getting much better post-treatment and I then ended up starting playing netball again last January, playing every single Tuesday until the beginning of August.”
More of a team sport kind of person, Charlotte admits that she was probably a little deluded about some of the preparation that goes into a half-marathon. “I quite liked being able to talk about it, feeling like I was proving something to myself and letting my friends know that I’m normal again.”
Once Charlotte decided to submit her application for the race, at no point did she think she was never going to do the race. For her, raising the money for Shine was very important. “I did not meet a single person during treatment who was my age. I was the youngest on my chemo bay unit by at least 25 years. I was living on my own, having been through quite a traumatic experience and as soon as I went to my first Shine event, it unlocked a bit of my brain, as if this was more normal, this was fine.”
Nearing the end of her Earl Grey tea, Charlotte went on to describe how Shine continues to help her to move forward, saying that she was very proud to run for the charity. “I could never see myself doing it had I not been ill. You’d think if you hadn’t been ill then you’d do more stuff, but it wasn’t until I felt I had reason to do it.”
What is Charlotte’s advice to anyone considering doing a half or full marathon?
“Given the two extremes, when you think of long-distance running, you’re either Mo Farah or the man in the astronaut suit at the back, running as a joke,” she said. “They deliberately set their races up for dealing with everyone in the middle. I was worried about being left at the back, but they’re very accessible for people.”
If you would like to donate to any of the people running the Royal Parks Half-Marathon for Shine this year taking place on Sunday, October 13, you can do so using any of the following links and see their story:
Shane Simpson –https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/shanesimpson2
Simon Walters: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SimonWalters6
Pete Grosse: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/PeteGrosse
Diego Delgado: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/diego-delgado
If you’d like to find out more about how you can support Shine’s work, please drop us a line at email@example.com, or view challenges here.