Why I ran the Beachy Head Marathon – John Leeson’s story

‘This marathon is very much a personal challenge for me, requiring a similar positive attitude that you need to overcome cancer.'

Close up of man in sports gear, running through the park
John Leeson, during one of his many runs

‘In November 2011, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. The surgeons were confident that there would be no need for chemotherapy after surgery, the only hiccup being that the operation was delayed whilst I received surgery on an abscess. I had my bowel surgery in January and was left with an ileostomy, which the doctors hoped I could have reversed after three months.

‘I recovered well from the surgery but when they tried to reverse the ileostomy, they encountered problems and realised I would need a scan to see what was going on. The scan pictures revealed that there was a further problem with secondary bowel cancer on my liver.

‘Whilst receiving chemotherapy, I tried to keep fit by jogging around the local park and when I met the doctors they were impressed by my level of fitness, as the fitter you go into surgery, the speedier your recovery will be. Again, the consultant believed that the problem was operable and despite them having to remove about 70 percent of the liver, they were quite happy that this would regenerate to whatever the body would require.

‘In 2013, we all felt that we had turned a corner, as I was getting stronger, learning to live with my ileostomy. I decided to concentrate on training for a cross country marathon. I completed the Beachy Head marathon in just over 5 hours, 31 minutes in October 2013.

‘A month later I was surprised to learn that another secondary had appeared on my liver! By November 2014, I had been referred to a consultant at St Thomas’ to see if I could have my bowel restored.

‘On meeting the consultant, I made a very rash promise that if he could successfully operate, I would run a marathon for Guy’s and St Thomas’ and The Chartwell Cancer Trust.

‘The operation for a bowel resection was performed in December 2014. Following the success of this operation, a further operation was performed in February 2015 at St Thomas’. I had a few issues afterwards which saw me return to St Thomas’ but this was soon sorted out.

‘Attending a routine check-up November 2015, I was informed I had a secondary tumour on the lung! This was operated on successfully in the December, a wedge section of the right middle lobe was removed from my lung.

‘We are now nearly two years on and I have been clear, touch wood, and now I once again prepare to tackle the Beachy Head Marathon, hoping to inspire others as well as proving that not all cancers lead to a negative conclusion but exist as a condition that you can overcome.’

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