Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Running for Pancreatic Cancer UK

Today, I so very happy to have, someone I am proud to call a friend, Chris Stovell sitting round my pool. Chris is a top selling author with Choc Lit and an amazing runner. We even run together most days, virtually! Today, Chris is talking about her latest half marathon and why she’s running for Pancreatic Cancer UK. Her story is a moving one, so please have a tissue ready, it certainly made me cry. Now please help yourself to a glass of bubbly, settle down under a parasol and meet my lovely friend…. Take it away Chris….

Well Pauline, I think we both deserve a sit down by your pool after all the running we’ve been doing lately!  It’s great having a running buddy - even if we don’t actually manage to run together - but thinking about you running in those scorching temperatures means I’ve got no excuse not to get up and go out when the skies are grey and it’s raining here… i.e. most of the time!  I’m also enjoying running in the Earthathon virtual relay we’re both taking part in; it’s just a bit of fun but it’s been marvellous to receive so much encouragement and support from runners across the globe.

I don’t know about you, but I find running and writing are mutually beneficial activities.  Running’s taught me that half-marathons are just a series of small steps; at the beginning of a race I’m always afraid I won’t finish, but by putting one foot in front of the other I somehow cross the finish line.  This has given me more confidence in my writing; I’m a slow someone writer but I know that every 90,000 word novel begins with a single sentence and with every sentence I get closer to The End. Running also works as a meditative practice for me; all the thoughts of trial and tribulations cluttering my head recede as I concentrate on the rhythm of my breathing and the rise and fall of my footsteps.  I’ve had a tough couple of years with health niggles and a family bereavement, but at last I’m going forwards with my work in progress.  I often find that plot ‘knots’ untangle themselves during a run - I’ll arrive at my desk and suddenly realise what to write next.

I’ve just started training for my ninth half marathon, the Cardiff Half which takes place on 2 October this year.  After much thought - because it’s always hard to ask people for donations when money is scarce and there are so many good causes - I’m running for a second time to try to raise funds for Pancreatic Cancer UK. Pancreatic cancer is known as the ‘silent’ killer because many of its symptoms reflect less serious illnesses meaning that by the time diagnosis is confirmed it’s often too late – which is what happened to my dad.  Unfortunately pancreatic cancer survival rates remain shockingly low and this grim disease is still taking too heavy a toll.  Pancreatic Cancer UK is fighting to make a difference though supporting those affected by the disease, investing in research and campaigning for change.  It’s too late for my dad, but one day the breakthrough will come which might spare another family this pain. You can read our story on my JustGiving page and here.  Thank you for your time.

When you’re sitting, waiting with fragile hopes, in a hospital room for relatives, it’s brutal to be told instead, ‘the operation was a complete success – but we couldn’t remove the cancer.’ Pancreatic cancer is known as the ‘silent’ killer because many of its symptoms reflect less serious illnesses meaning that by the time diagnosis is confirmed it’s often too late – which is what happened to my dad.  The Whipple procedure, the major surgery he withstood, which might have prolonged his life, came too late. 

I’m afraid I can’t provide photos of sad kittens or cute puppies to make my chosen cause seem more appealing. Pancreatic cancer isn’t very pretty, it’s cruel, it ravages strong beautiful bodies and is no respecter of fame, talent or fortune. All we have left are a few reminders of what the disease took away from him, and ultimately, from us.

I still have my dad’s last pair of glasses complete with his fingerprints. Light Titanium frames with sprung sides and high-index lenses.  On a ‘cost per wear’ basis they were never going to be a good investment, but medication combined with the dying of his own light had played cruel tricks with his vision.  But my dear friend, Jill, Best Optom in the World, did her best for him and this pair gave him a few more weeks of reading pleasure – not the dense, academic tomes he’d previously relished, perhaps, but at least he could read a newspaper, engage with the world a little and enjoy his stamp collection. After his death, they came to me.  When I opened the case there was another slip of paper placed beneath the cleaning cloth.  Phone numbers. Waypoints for the final path.  Mum’s mobile, my sister, our husbands, my two grown-up daughters and me.

I have a set of book cases Dad made for me. He was a carpenter and joiner, often called in by architects when they needed someone with traditional skills who could make oak staircases, roof lanterns or sash windows.

The back pain he suffered with pancreatic cancer was relieved a little when he leaned forwards. He made himself a lectern so he could read sitting at a table. It now sits on my desk.

A wooden block also sits on a corner of my desk.  It’s an intensely personal and profoundly moving object.  What is it?  Well, it’s one of pair, the last things Dad made for himself which were designed to keep his bed at a more comfortable angle during his final weeks. 

And the rest of our tangible memories are photographs of the man we loved, lost and miss every day. One of a kind, my dad

Pancreatic cancer is the fifth leading cause of all UK cancer deaths, but research into the disease is extremely underfunded and survival rates have not improved in forty years. It’s too late for my dad, but someone else’s dad might live longer if those survival rates improve. Please help if you can.

And thank you Pauline for your generous support, for being a terrific running buddy and letting me chat by your pool.  I suppose we’d better get on with some writing now, hadn’t we?

Christine Stovell says all her writing - short or long fiction, poetry or feature writing - is about making sense of the world.  Her novels are published by Choc Lit and she has recently completed a series of house interior commissions for The English Home magazine.

A huge thanks, Chris for sitting round my pool, you inspire me on all counts and I hope your fund raising continues to grow making every km you run feel like a golden step. I'm now away to change into my running kit so we can have a short 8km run together. 

Also a big thank you  to you for stopping by. I hope you have enjoyed meeting my friend. I will be back soon with more news on my running, poster designing and of course, my latest book. Until then, take care and I hope the sun is shinning on your face and in your heart.



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