John’s marathon road to recovery
John Heath had an ambition to run the London Marathon for years, but a diagnosis of advanced prostate cancer at Guy’s in summer 2017 took him on a tough and unexpected journey to the start line of his first ever marathon. Now he has achieved his goal and raised an amazing amount for Guy’s Cancer along the way.
John had been living a busy and active life at the time of his diagnosis, working full time as a senior lawyer at the Bank of England as well as swimming, running and walking regularly.
Under the care of Dr Sarah Rudman, Consultant Medical Oncologist and Mr Rick Popert, Consultant Urologist, John began an intensive period of treatment including hormone therapy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The support of family and friends helped him through every stage in his treatment.
‘I have been blessed throughout treatment by the love and support of family and friends, especially a wonderful, loving wife, three bright, adorable daughters and a terrific son-in-law,’ says John.
‘Without their enduring support from diagnosis and throughout treatment it would have been very tough indeed to cope with the initial shock, the uncertainties and the daily ups and downs of treatment, particularly chemotherapy.’
During his treatment, John also took part in the ground-breaking national STAMPEDE trial run by Guy’s Oncology and Haematology clinical trials clinicians. The trial takes a drug usually prescribed for Type2 diabetes and adds it to prostate cancer treatment for non-diabetic patients.
After more than a year of treatment, John discovered building up a fitness regime has benefitted him physically and mentally.
Through the Guy’s physiotherapy department, he began to regain strength through gentle circuit training, running and walking. But building up his fitness levels on top of treatment was a big challenge.
‘The side effects of chemo and knowing that when you've finished one cycle you've got to go through it all again, were all extremely draining and not conducive to doing anything active. But I always felt much better physically and mentally after doing some form of exercise and I also found that it helped enormously with sleeping and maintaining one's appetite’.
But there was one special personal memory that lifted John during his chemotherapy treatment, as he recalls.
‘During the second chemo session, with all the lines in me and with the pudding bowl, space helmet cold cap on my head, my wife and I received a message that we had become first time grandparents. There couldn't have been better news.’
The first steps towards London Marathon
Friendship as well as family helped John through chemotherapy. He also joined the Guy’s Cancer Centre walking sessions during that time, forging a sense of community with others who had recently experienced or were currently experiencing similar treatment.
Although the group no longer officially meet as part of Guy’s Cancer Centre, they still get together fortnightly in Greenwich. Some of them even came to cheer John on in his first ever marathon, which he ran to fundraise for the TOUR team.
The lead up the marathon was challenging for John, and he sprained his ankle during the last few weeks of training. Fortunately, with rest and recovery he was fit enough to get back on track just in time. But even through the painful setbacks, one goal kept him going.
‘Above all perhaps, one of the big driving forces for me has been to show the many other men diagnosed with prostate cancer each year at whatever stage, that it needn't and shouldn't be allowed to take over your life completely.
‘The last few miles of the race were a real grind, but I realised I was in excellent company with all the other runners around me. It was a truly memorable and unforgettable day. One of the best days of my life for so many different reasons.’
John fulfilled his Marathon dream and has raised over £8000 so far for the TOUR team at Guy’s and St Thomas’. Fancy following in his footsteps? you can sign up to the 2020 London Marathon now.