Louise Wilce, Christie fundraiser
|Louise Wilce (right) running with niece Violet and son Alexander|
In recent years there has been much publicity regarding this gene, with celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Christina Applegate announcing they too carried this gene and would undergo preventative surgery under the eyes of the world.
In my family, we also do what we can to fight, to keep going, and not let this gene affect the way we live our lives. My female relatives with a positive BRCA1 result have had preventative surgery i.e. double mastectomies and removal of ovaries. I include myself in this, I had a double mastectomy and reconstruction in 2011, aged 29, and I plan to have my oophorectomy and hysterectomy in June 2017, not long after completing the London Marathon.
The Christie has been there for my family in terms of counselling, information, recovery and, for those who weren’t so lucky to catch it in time, treatment and palliative care. Closest to my heart is my father, Geoff Cowey, who passed away to bile duct cancer in October 2014.
My dad was just 59 when he died. He had chemotherapy and follow up treatment at The Christie, but sadly his cancer was very advanced and complicated. I went with him to a lot of his appointments. I was terrified I would see him in pain, scared and hooked up to drips on a bleak hospital ward. It wasn’t like that at all. It was comfortable, the staff were friendly, and we ended up having a right laugh sometimes. There was a kind of ‘blitz spirit’ amongst patients. Maybe this was because everybody was truly in it together, maybe it was because of the unique spirit of Manchester and the other Mancunians also having treatment. But I really believe it is because The Christie is a very, very special place.
|Louise's dad Geoff|
I don’t know what changed but one evening I thought ‘enough is enough’. I wanted to feel better and start living again. I also felt a huge desire to give something back to the people who had helped my dad and my family so much during those dark times. So….I went online and entered The Great Manchester Run, a 10k race in my hometown of Manchester, a place which we love and reminds me of my dad on every corner and every street.
So fast forward from that first run one freezing January evening and, six months after losing dad, myself and most of my family, including dad’s two brothers and two sisters and a handful of cousins, ran our first 10k, the Great Manchester Run 2015, both in his memory and for The Christie. We were so pleased that something positive could come from something so tragic.
I don’t remember waking up one day and suddenly feeling ok, but gradually I rediscovered what it felt like to be happy again. You know when you have a really, really good run where your heart sings and everything around you is bursting with colour and light? Every single run is like that for me. Of course, I’ve had the odd injury and frustrating times, but I am so grateful for what running has given me that I can’t ever see myself giving up.
Running hasn’t just been my saviour. It’s saved my family too. Most of us are still running and I plan to keep it going with my son also. Alexander ran the Mini Great Manchester Run, aged three, in memory of his Grandi in 2016 and now goes to a local kids run free club - he wants shiny medals like his mummy has! My cousin Emily ran the 2016 London Marathon for the same fantastic cause. I went to watch her race in London and as I saw her with her medal and my dad’s name on her back I thought, ‘I have got to do this too.”
So my next goal? Well, I didn’t get a ballot place for London, so am bursting with pride and excitement that The Christie offered me one of their 2017 golden bond places, so I am well into my training plan at the minute and loving it. The Christie is such an amazing place and I will always, always support them and raise funds for them, for the rest of my life. We’ve raised almost £6,000 in my dad’s memory so far and our plan is to just keep going. Keep running.
When someone you love receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, your world crumbles and you very quickly learn to live in the moment, because you have no control over your future. What the team at The Christie taught us was that, whilst tomorrow could not be guaranteed, today could at least be ok.