10176152_10202536157538943_1437850482737057782_nWell who would have imagined that I would ever be a cover girl! Not me, but a full-page close up of my face graces the cover of the June 14 issue of the Danish running magazine ”Løbemagasinet” along with the headline ”Kirsten Ejlskov Jensen was an active marathon runner when she got lymphoma, she ran from cancer, through chemotherapy and over the finish line of Ironman Copenhagen three years later: read her story.” Inside there are 8 pages of pictures and article.

I’m pleased with how the article has turned out, but just as I’ve been on the other occasions I’ve had media attention for my story, also somewhat ambivalent. It seems that in the media cancer can only be addressed in terms of victims or heroes. I’m definitely no victim, but nor am I a hero or even exceptional. I know – not know of, but personally know – 6 other cancer survivors who have done an Ironman. One of them, Kaisa, has even been on the podium of the Ironman World Championships TWICE – now that IS impressive!

So every time something is published I feel a little embarrassed and end up doing some soul searching about how I present myself. I should add here that none of it has been the result of any active promotion on my side, but rather due to people in my network approaching me – though I have always said yes when asked. The only active effort I have made is this blog which mainly started as a good way to keep friends and family informed during my illness, and has developed from there.

In a nutshell, I believe that people with cancer are neither victims or heroes, but just people who unfortunately contract an illness and deal with it the best they can. I hate when the media present the victim picture – often in cahoots with the cancer organisations’ very clever marketing efforts – after all, pictures of suffering, bald, cancer patients raise more money than self-sufficient, strong cancer survivors getting on with their lives. But I don’t want to be guilty of contributing to the idea that a person is heroic just because they survive. It’s not heroic and there is very little you can do as a cancer patient to influence whether you are one of the ones who make it. But at the end of the day every time I go through this soul-searching there are two issues I always come back to.

When I got my diagnosis and told my children, who were then 14 and 12, I had cancer their first reaction was “are you going to die?” At least they said it so we could talk about it. I also knew that was what everyone else thought too, they just didn’t say it, which was uncomfortable and upsetting. If you try to tell people that you are not planning on dying just yet, they think you are in denial. So I can understand why many people going through cancer choose not to talk about it openly. The problem is that this contributes to keeping taboos and myths about cancer alive. Yet the fact is that in this part of the world more than half of those who get a cancer diagnosis, survive. (This is unfortunately not the case in the developing world, but that’s a whole other issue). Not only do we survive, but most of us are not invalids. We might have some scars on our souls, but most of us go on with our normal lives again.

The other issue is that I am very passionate about the importance of exercise, not only on our physical wellbeing, but also on our emotional and intellectual wellbeing. Cancer hits you on all three fronts, and I cannot emphasise enough the importance that exercise has had and continues to have for me in dealing with that. And it’s not just cancer, but all the ups and downs that we all go through in life. It doesn’t have to be an Ironman (in fact I actually wouldn’t recommend that unless you’re really keen!) – it doesn’t matter whether it is dance, or yoga, cycling or whatever the important thing is to find a form of exercise that you enjoy and then to do it regularly and consistently.

I’m not heroic. I’m living my life the way I want to live it despite, not because of, having had cancer. I ran marathons before and I would have continued to have run them if I hadn’t got it. I suspect I probably would have got round to doing an Ironman cancer or no cancer. I do it because I think it’s fun and yes, because it lets me prove to myself that I am still me despite having had cancer.

And I will continue to share my story in the hope that it encourages others to prioritise exercise. And I will continue to speak out in the hope that the next time one of my children’s friends are told that someone close to them has cancer, their first thought will not be death. And I hope that I can contribute to gradually changing the taboos and the myths so that those of us who get a cancer diagnosis are no longer seen as either victims or heroes, but just people dealing with life the best way they can.

Ironman!

August 25, 2013

I did it! I swam 3.8 km in the sea, cycled 180 km and then ran 42.2 km in 13 hours and 10 minutes.

I am an Ironman!

In August 2010, 3 years ago, I was about halfway through my chemotherapy when the first ironman distance triathlon took place in Copenhagen. The bike route passed 500 meters from our house, so we went out to take a look. I stood there with my bald head and in the worst shape of my life and, totally in awe of those guys flashing past on their bikes, thought to myself that I would like to try that one day.

In the three years between I have learned to swim, though not without a lot of heartache; I have gone from being a “transport cyclist” to one of those lycra-clad types on a racer bike; and I have worked really hard to regain the running fitness I had before cancer struck. As I approach my 50th birthday, I am now fitter than I have ever been in my life, I weigh less than I have done since before puberty (though my husband says I’m too thin and need to fatten up!) and I have muscles in places I have never had muscles before!  

Biking through Birkerød about to cry

Biking through Birkerød about to cry

So last Sunday when it was ME who flashed through our town on my bike and my family, friends and neighbours were there cheering me on, I clearly remembered that day 3 years before and began to cry, with big, loud, happy sobs!

With a build up like that, my Ironman experience could so easily have ended in fiasco. But it didn’t. Not only was it not a fiasco, it was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. A truly fantastic day.

I can’t explain how it is possible, but I got through the whole thing without having a single crisis. Not once did it cross my mind that I couldn’t go on, or I needed to stop, or that I was in agony. On the contrary, most of the time I was feeling totally high and completely happy (and no, I wasn’t doped, unless you count beetroot juice). The most negative feelings I had during the day were some moments of boredom on the bike. Believe me, 6 hours 42 minutes is a very long time to sit on a bike without any breaks…..

The swim was clearly the biggest challenge for me and I can understand that most of my family and friends held their breath until they saw that I was successfully out of the water again. It went really well though. I was slow, but I knew I would be and I swam in the time that I expected to (2:01). My original expectation though was that I somehow just had to “survive” the swim, but instead it was actually a really good experience. For the past couple of months, one of my strategies to manage my swim panics has been a daily visualisation exercise of the swim and amazingly the reality was exactly as it plays out in the visualisation. Not only was I relaxed throughout, but I had strong feelings of happiness that finally I was underway.

As I mentioned I had moments of boredom on the bike, but most of the time I was in a state of complete flow. Like a trance. During a lot of my long training rides I have motivated myself by counting down the kilometres or targeting one half-hour at a time, but during the Ironman I was not aware of the time or the distance passing. I did notice when it started to rain and got quite windy and can understand from other athletes that they had a tough time with it. However, I experienced it as something going on around and outside of me, while I just kept on cycling. After I passed my home town for the second time and had stopped sobbing, I woke up again and with 25 km to go I started getting excited about getting off my bike and starting to run.

running

Having a party!

While my focus was almost totally inwards during the swim and bike, during the marathon it was more or less completely outwards! The 4 x 10+ km route was totally lined with cheering spectators and the atmosphere was incredible.  I was totally having a party! I smiled and waved and high-fived my way through the entire run. As with the bike ride, I was more or less oblivious to the time or the distance, quite unlike my other marathon experiences where I have meticulously counted down the kilometre markers! Along with my trainer I had agreed a strategy to start running at around 5:30 minutes/ per km and stick to that as long as I could, knowing that at some point I would run out of steam. I was somewhat surprised that I actually managed to hold that until at least half way. From then on I gradually got slower, but never experienced any crises or “the wall”; my legs just couldn’t run any faster any more – and who can blame them!

For the last 2 km I did start counting down the time and the distance until I got to the finish line and when I passed my

I did it! I did it!

I did it! I did it!

husband and daughter 200 m before the line I started crying and was shouting to them “I did it, I did it!”.  When I got to the finish my swim coach, Torbjørn, was the speaker and I got a high-five from him and a special shout-out, which is a pretty big deal.

And then the crossed the line and I was an Ironman!

My goal for the Ironman had always been just to finish and to have a good experience. As it turned out I didn’t just have a good experience, I had an absolutely amazing, fantastic, wonderful, and every other superlative you can think of, experience. In my wildest dreams, I had not imagined that it was possible to get through an Ironman without having a single crisis and I can still not explain how that is possible. While I hadn’t a specific time goal in mind, I had anticipated that if everything went according to plan then I would finish in around 13+ hours, so I am more than satisfied with 13:10. I had however not expected that I could run my marathon as fast as I did though. 4:04 is not a bad marathon time for a woman of my age, even without swimming 3.8 km and biking 180 km as a warm-up, so I am hugely, immensely proud of my marathon time!

And having read this if you are wondering whether I am going to do it again, then the answer is no! I am an Ironman, and I have no need or desire to be a faster Ironman. And I do not believe that it would be possible for me to have such an amazing experience one more time!

There are some obvious parallels between the journey involved in fighting and recovering from cancer and the journey involved in training for an ironman. Recently however I had an experience where those two parallel tracks merged.

One of the parallels is that the physical part, while enormously difficult in both cases, is nothing in compared to dealing with the mental aspects. I don’t want to underplay here how very difficult the physical aspect of cancer treatment and rehabilitation is. It is only in retrospect that I recognise just how awful those 7 months of cancer treatment were. In terms of physical rehabilitation, I have been very lucky in that having had a blood cancer, I have not had any parts of my body removed, and nor have I had any serious, lasting after effects from my treatment. I have a few small scars, my 5 blue tattoos and some numbness in my right hand as a reminder. And while it has taken me more than 2 years to get back to my previous level of fitness and that has required a huge amount of hard work and determination, today I am as fit as I have ever been. The mental recovery has however been more difficult and I believe that this is something that is common for many cancer survivors.

Previously I was the type of person who had endless amounts of energy, a tendency to restlessness and thrived the more balls I had in the air at one time. I am no longer that type of person. I get easily tired and stressed if there are too many things going on at one time or too many people around me. Luckily I have a lifestyle which for the most part allows me to plan to avoid situations which stress me, and when it is unavoidable I am very lucky that my nearest and dearest (in particular my husband) are happy to help me. But still, sometimes I get sad that I have lost something that I previously saw as a major part of my personality and a key strength.

The physical aspect of training for an ironman is obviously also pretty tough! But in my case it has been the mental aspect – my fear of water – that has been the biggest challenge. Yes, close to a show stopper. After pulling out of the half-ironman distance triathlon a few weeks ago because of a panic attack, I have been working really hard to try to deal with these issues so the same thing doesn’t happen for my Ironman on 18 August. The strategy has involved regular swims on the route where the Ironman will take place, regular open water training sessions with a fantastic swimming coach, Morten, plus a one-on-one coaching session with Torbjørn Sindballe, who has a special expertise in performance psychology. It was as a result of the latter that my two parallel journeys – the cancer journey and the ironman journey – unexpectedly merged.

I’m not going to give away all Torbjørn’s trade secrets, but as a part of my session with him we did a relaxation/visualisation exercise which included me imagining a yellow energy ball in my chest which is a part of me where my strength, energy and courage are located and that I can focus on when I am afraid or need energy, in particular when I am swimming, but also cycling or running. During the session I could not imagine the yellow ball, instead I could only see a lot of aliens running about in my chest. And now you think I am really nuts! Let me explain. When I had cancer the cancer cells were located around my chest area – my armpits, on my breastbone and my throat – and I had a very clear mental picture all during the 8 months from diagnosis until being told the cancer was gone – that there was a war going on in my body where the good cells were battling against the aliens. So, when Torbjørn asked me to visualise something in my chest, that was all I could think about. Still the rest of the session was really good and helpful so I wasn’t too worried about not being able to locate my yellow energy ball.

However that night something strange happened. I had a very clear experience where an energy ball grew in my chest. It was not yellow as Torbjørn said, it was golden and it rotated slowly shedding a very strong, warm and powerful glow. And inside this ball was all the energy and power that I used to have that had gone. I don’t know if I was awake or asleep when this happened but the next morning I had a strong recollection of it, and I have it still now.

I wish I could tell you that my golden energy ball has solved all my problems in terms of my post-cancer stress and my swimming stress. It has not. However it is actively helping with the swimming. However, perhaps more significantly, for the first time since the cancer I am starting to think that my more general stress may not be a permanent state of affairs and that something of that old energetic Kirsten my still return!

Cancer is not on my CV

March 29, 2013

Cleary I have never made any effort to conceal the fact that I have had cancer! When I was in treatment, I did wonder whether my openness would have any negative effect on my professional life in the future, since many in my professional network were following my progress (and being extremely supportive) both through this blog and more directly. It didn’t turn out to have any influence though – at least not in any negative sense.

Nonetheless, I don’t actively publicise the fact that I am a cancer survivor, or a runner (or hopefully future Ironman) in my professional life. If I’m honest, I quite like having work assignments where my clients and other partners don’t know my cancer story.  Even though it’s more than 2 years on, cancer is still something that preoccupies me, but having an assignment where no-one but me knows about it allows me to step out of that “cancer survivor” role for a while.

I’m in Indonesia at the moment, working on an assignment for a very large public sector organisation.  I was recommended for the assignment through my network, but I was fairly sure that no-one here knew about the cancer, or the running for that matter. I was taken aback therefore when the other day, at a meeting with one of the Senior Managers, he started off the conversation by asking me if I was getting any running done while I was here in Jakarta. I had been discussing running with some of my other colleagues so I assumed someone had mentioned it to him. Then he followed up by asking my how my cancer was now which really shocked me because I knew I hadn’t mentioned that to anyone. Then he told me that he had Googled my name and found and watched my TEDx talk. It turns out that if you Google my name the TEDx Talk is the first thing that comes up – before my website or any of the other professional type references.

That wasn’t a consequence I had considered when I agreed to do TEDx! It’s every day practice to Google professional contacts (I do it myself) so suddenly I’ve had to adjust my thinking to the fact that when people want to check me out professionally they are almost certainly going to find out that I am a running, cancer survivor.

This time it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. This Manager was apparently very positively disposed to me as a result of seeing my talk. And starting off our meeting on that pretty intimate note resulted in a level of trust that normally takes much longer to achieve as a consultant (if ever). He has also told other of his colleagues about my story with the same result. In retrospect, I’m not sure it would have had the same impact if I had shared the information directly with them compared to them finding and seeing the TEDx Talk.

I’m still not planning on putting “cancer survivor” or “marathon runner” on my CV.  But I’m coming to terms with the fact that I can no longer assume that professional contacts do not know about that part of my life and that it’s is OK!

If you’ve had cancer or are a runner do you mention that on your CV?

New Year's Eve 2009

31st December 2009. We were on holiday in India (one of the best holidays of my life!) and celebrated New Year’s Eve in our favourite holiday restaurant. I’ve always been extremely goal-oriented and a planner, so for me New Year is about looking forward the year ahead and setting new goals. 2010 was looking particularly exciting. Work-wise, I had already decided to take the plunge and start out as a freelancer in the spring. Running-wise I had already registered for Etape Bornholm in July and Berlin Marathon in September. We weren’t even dreading heading home to dark, wintry Denmark as we had skiing vacation to Italy booked for a few weeks later!

Well, as you know, 2010 turned out a lot different than expected. 3 days into our ski holiday my daughter broke her leg really badly and ended up having to be operated twice. We spent 5 days in a Swiss

Chemo Kirsten 18 Oct 2010

hospital before being air-ambulanced home and she was in plaster from her hip to her toes for something like 8 weeks. She wasn’t out of plaster before I found a lump in my armpit and a few weeks after that I got a cancer diagnosis – the day before I officially started my fulltime freelance career (or was supposed to). For the remainder of 2010 I was in cancer treatment – my last radiotherapy was on 8 December and I got the “all-clear” on 18 December.

On 31st December 2010 then I could once again look forward to the coming year though this time as I set my goals I was a lot less confident that I would achieve them. Cancer takes away that kind of innocence forever I guess. Nonetheless I think that my goal-oriented nature is so strong that I found it difficult to accept that I hadn’t achieved 2010’s goals, so for 2011 my goals were to start working from 1 January and get that freelance career off the ground, and to run Etape Bornholm and Berlin Marathon. Considering the physical and mental state I was in at that point (totally physically debilitated and suffering something like post-traumatic shock probably about covers it) these goals were fairly outrageously ambitious – mad even!

When I read back over my blog posts during this year, I’m not sure I have really communicated how much of a struggle it has been for me to get in shape to run a marathon in just 9 months. But as well as my goal orientation I have been blessed with a “cup half-full” nature so I mostly chose to focus on the progress is was making! Inside myself though, I have really had doubts about what I was doing and whether there was any chance I could do it.

So, it might have taken a whole year longer than originally intended, but the level of satisfaction at having actually accomplished those goals I set on 31 December is something like a zillion times higher than it would have been if it had gone according to plan. As I crossed the finish line in Berlin last Sunday, after running the whole god dam 42.2 km in 4 hours, 28 minutes and 48 seconds, it was an unbelievably, overwhelmingly, fantastic feeling.

Berlin Marathon 2011

Thanks to everyone who has backed me up, sent me good wishes and encouraging comments and not least helped me to raise 5000 kroner  for cancer support and research.

And just in case you are wondering, I already have some new goals, but that is for another blog post!

This Tuesday was 31st of May – one year since I was told I had cancer. I’m not sure what the “normal” way is to celebrate such anniversaries. I suppose it depends whether, like me, you have been lucky enough to kick cancer’s a** in the intervening year, or not. At any rate, I celebrated the day by running my first post-treatment race. It’s not like I haven’t been able to run races (I did in fact run a couple while I was in treatment), I just haven’t felt like it lately. All of a sudden, though, I got my racing mojo back and signed up for my local annual 5 km race, Rudersdalstaffet, with start and finish line about 50m from my front door (that’s me with #1016).  I was pleased with the result – 25:13. It’s a long way from last year’s result which earned me a second place and it’s also a long way from my 5 km personal record (22:54 from 2008) but it’s a mega improvement on just a few months ago!

Otherwise, on the surface of things, comparing this month’s stats with last suggests that it hasn’t been a great month running-wise, but I think that’s mostly I sign that I’ve been focused on other things, in particular my travelling at the beginning of the month. At 3300m (and hilly as hell), Cusco isn’t the ideal destination for runners unless you’re there for longer than I was as part of an altitude training programme! I did make one feeble and absolutely knackering attempt to run, which turned out to probably be my slowest run ever! Thereafter I decided to have a little break from running until I got to Washington DC, which, on the other hand is a great city for running in!

So here is the overview of progress to date:

Month #km Average pace min/km Comments
April 2010 132 5:07 Typical month pre-cancer treatment
October 2010 88 5:54 Last chemo on 18 Oct.
November 2010 100 5:46 First radiotherapy 15 Nov.
December 2010 49 6:08 Last radiotherapy 8 Dec.
January 2011 100 5:53  
February 2011 103 5:44  
March 2011 47 5:43 Injured!
April 2011 113 5:27  
May 2011 98 5:32  

 

So less mileage and slower than last month, but nonetheless  I think my fitness has improved – it looks like it if I compare the last week of April (23 km @ 5:26 min/km) and the last week of May 28km @ 5:23 min/km). And if we forget the stats and go by how I feel – I feel GREAT! I’m bubbling with energy and happiness and I love every minute I spend in my running shoes. It really doesn’t get much better than that!

Despite the fact that it is still almost 4 months until Berlin Marathon I have already raised 1,500kr for charity – thanks a billion to everyone who has made a donation (and if you haven’t and would like to you just click here. This month I was interviewed by a journalist from a Danish women’s magazine called Familie Journalen about my “running through chemo/training for Berlin” fundraising campaign, but I don’t yet know when it will be published. I will let you know when I do! If any of you have ideas or contacts that could lead to more publicity, then please let me know! The more attention I can get for the cause, the more money we can raise.

A related rather bizarre little story is that one of the Danish national newspapers ran an article last weekend about the phenomenon of women-only triathlons and chose to illustrate the article with the same photo of me that I have used on my fundraising campaign!  This photo was taken on the one and only occasion I took part in a triathlon which was in August 2009. Why they picked a photo of me out of all the thousands of photos of women participating in triathlons we will never know, but I guess I am flattered in some weird way! I almost feel obliged to sign up for an Ironman to prove I’m a real triathlete!

Up in the air

May 15, 2011

For the last many years I have travelled regularly for work, something like 80 to 100 days a year, to all kinds of destinations all over the world. That came to an abrupt stop with my cancer diagnosis last May. I had actually just been about to head off to Afghanistan for 4 weeks, which obviously had to be cancelled. Since then I have been grounded!

While I was in treatment I didn’t miss it at all. Dragging myself back and forth to the hospital was the limit of what I could manage, and when you feel ill it is a relief to be able to sleep in your own bed every night.

When I began to think about starting work again, I was a bit worried about how it would go with the travelling . As those of you who travel regularly know, it is an exhausting lifestyle and not at all as glamorous as others imagine – hours and hours spent in airports and on planes, sleeping badly in hotels, jetlag, weekends at home disrupted by arrivals and departures.  Although I felt ready to start working from January, I absolutely still wasn’t feeling 100% well.

However, for some reason I was extremely lucky, not only to have lots of projects land on my desk from 1 January, but projects that didn’t involve any travel in the first months! It has been great to be kept busy while at the same time have my strength return. Gradually, though, as my energy returned so did my itchy feet, and I was really looking forward to my first trip departing on 30 April, more or less 11 months after I had last stepped on a plane.

I’m now back from that trip: 12 days visiting both Cusco in Peru and Washington DC. It was an exhausting trip in many ways. 26 hours trip from Copenhagen to Cusco, 7 hours time difference, altitude of 3300m, long working days, then on to Washington for more meetings, before heading home again.  Yet I felt fine, and seemed to deal with all of it better than many colleagues. I also met a lot of people who I hadn’t seen for a year, some of whom didn’t know that I had been ill in the meantime. I was surprised how many of them spontaneously commented on how well I was looking! I suspect it is the new hairstyle, but no matter, it really was a boost!

My life and my health are definitely back on track!

April has been a great month for running! I seem to have successfully defeated the injury that plagued me in March and I’ve been able to see a measurable improvement from week to week which is really motivating. For the first time since I started cancer treatment I haven’t felt like I have just been hanging in there, but have been feeling great and able to really push myself. It’s a great circle to be in, because the more I push myself, the  more I improve, the more I improve, the more motivated I become, the motivation gives me more energy which allows me to push myself more and so on! All in all it is much more fun.

The focus this month has been on picking up my speed rather than running long distances – my runs haven’t been more than about 8km max, but I’ve been doing a lot of intervals and fartleg which I love. Particularly the intervals! And it works, as you will see in my progress table below. I’ve been running 4 times a week as well as hitting the gym 2-3 times a week for weight training and sessions on the cross trainer.

My biggest challenge has been the sun! Normally I love the sun and we’ve been having a surprisingly sunny April here this year. However I’m supposed to avoid sun on the areas where I had radiotherapy, which in my case is my entire upper body from chest to chin. It is a bit of a challenge running in the sun without getting sun on your neck and throat and I’m still trying to figure it out. So far I’m slathering on the factor 30 and wearing a buff round my neck but it isn’t ideal as the buff slides down and doesn’t really cover my neck/throat as high up as I really need. If anyone has any suggestions here, I’m very open to good ideas!

It’s now less than 5 months to Berlin Marathon, but I am starting to feel more optimistic that not only will I be able to complete the marathon, but it might be a half-way decent time. A new Personal Record still seems out of reach, but I haven’t entirely given up hope – particularly if I keep on improving the way I have been! Here is a summary if my progress to date:

Month #km Average pace min/km Comments
April 2010 132 5:07 Typical month pre-cancer treatment
October 2010 88 5:54 Last chemo on 18 Oct.
November 2010 100 5:46 First radiotherapy 15 Nov
December 2010 49 6:08 Last radiotherapy 8 Dec
January 2011 100 5:53  
February 2011 103 5:44  
March 2011 47 5:43 Injured!
April 2011 113 5:27 🙂

 It would also be really motivating for me if you felt like donating to my campaign to raise money for the Danish Cancer Society (Kræftens Bekæmpelse)! Just click here: http://uk.betternow.org/projects/kirstenejlskov

Running update

April 6, 2011

March turned out to be a bit of flop in terms of running due to an injury I picked up at the end of February. It hasn’t been serious, but I have had to cut back the amount of running I was able to do.  Like all runners I have previously always freaked out faced by injury – you would have thought the world was ending! However, my new chilled personality has also paid off this month. It just really hasn’t seemed like such a big deal in the grand scheme of things, which has probably resulted in me getting over it quicker that I would have in the past. Rather than refusing to admit it was a problem, keeping going and making it worse (yes, I bet the runners reading this know what I’m talking about!) I immediately backed off.

Not that I have been lazy, mind you. I have compensated for lack of running with an increase on the cross-trainer machine at the gym (I think some people call it the elliptical trainer) and have just translated my running workouts into cross-trainer workouts with the use of my heart-rate monitor. The total number of km I covered when counting running + cross-trainer was actually more for March than it was for February, but with a much higher proportion on the cross-trainer. I’m now pretty much over the injury and gradually increasing the running km and decreasing the cross-trainer km again.

It’s still over 5 months until Berlin Marathon on 25 September, but it increasingly seems doable, albeit I have definitely dropped any ideas of a new personal best! I have never run my marathons for charity before, but this time it seems appropriate to use my experience to raise some money to give something back to the Danish Cancer Society “Kræftens Bekæmpelse”. I also have an idea that it could be a way to raise awareness about the benefits of exercise both during and after cancer treatment. I have already launched a campaign pagehttp://uk.betternow.org/projects/kirstenejlskov and all donations are extremely welcome. However I plan to increase my campaigning efforts as the momentum increases towards September so you are going to hear plenty more about this!

In the meantime an update on the status of my “comeback” so far:

Month # km Average pace min/km Comments
April 2010 132 5:07 Typical month pre-cancer treatment
October 2010 88 5:54 Last chemo on 18 Oct.
November 2010 100 5:46 First radiotherapy 15 Nov.
December 2010 49 6:08 Last radiotherapy 8 Dec.
January 2011 100 5:53  
February 2011 103 5:44  
March 2011 47 5:43 Injured!

And here is a summary of my blog entries relating to running through cancer and beyond:

https://kirstenejlskov.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/keep-on-running/

https://kirstenejlskov.wordpress.com/2010/07/15/keep-on-running-2/

https://kirstenejlskov.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/running-the-marathon/

https://kirstenejlskov.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/one-week-to-go-and-yes-im-still-running/

https://kirstenejlskov.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/back-in-training/

Happy Anniversary!

April 3, 2011

Friday was a double anniversary for me. It was one year ago, on 1 April 2010 that I took the huge step and became self-employed. I didn’t actually stop being employed for another 2 months having made an arrangement with my employer that I would reduce to half-time for two months before leaving completely, while working from home and on the condition that I also could start working on my own projects. This is an arrangement that I would definitely recommend to others starting out on their own, though it does depend on having a good, flexible and trusting employer, which I was very lucky to have.

Less happily, it was also on 1 April 2010 that I first discovered the lump in my armpit that later showed itself to be a symptom of my Hodgkins Lymphoma. I have no idea how long the lump had been there but it was fairly large by that stage. Hodgkins lumps are usually painless, but can be sensitive to alcohol. That weekend we were visiting my in-laws for the Easter holidays (yes, I can also recommend starting with a vacation when you start your own business!) and I had probably had a bit more red wine to drink than usual. I woke up in the night with a throbbing pain under my arm which is how I discovered the lump. I lay awake much of the night convinced it was cancer, and headed to the Doctor as soon as we got home again. This is fairly remarkable because I am generally the type who expects things to just get better and usually refuse to go the Doctor until I am forced. This time my intuition worked well for me, that’s for sure. It took another couple of months to get the diagnosis, but during that time I was quite convinced that it was cancer.

A lot of people have said to me that the timing was really, really unlucky. The thing is though, that there is never a good time to get cancer. Sure, economically it was rotten timing – if I had still been employed I would have been paid my salary throughout my sick leave – but we managed. You never know when you start your own business how long it will take before you start making money, so we had budgeted for me not earning much this first year. Plus, in Denmark there is a voluntary sick pay insurance scheme that I had luckily signed up to, so I did get sick pay.

Deciding to go solo is a huge deal and when considering it there are a lot of worries and concerns about what could go wrong. What did go wrong for me was much worse than I ever had imagined! Yet, one year on, I have no regrets. Of course I wish that I hadn’t got cancer, but I have no control over that. I love being self-employed, I love working from home and I love my job!