Rachel Avon, 34 from Newport talks to us about her biggest life challenges and how cancer has changed her outlook in more ways than one. Rachel was diagnosed with one of the rarest forms of cancer affecting only 1 in 3 million people. Not only was this discovered during her pregnancy, but doctors did not inform the family until after the delivery of the baby.
Rachel recounts her experience here:
“When I was six months pregnant, I came into school one day with a pain in my side which gradually got worse. By mid-morning I couldn’t sit down, and after a phone call to my GP, it was suggested that I go to the hospital to get checked out. I had a blood test the same day, the results concerned the doctors and appendicitis was suspected. They wanted to remove my appendix immediately and I had to consent that we were willing to put my life ahead of the baby’s. It was horrendous, something I wish no pregnant family has to go through.”
The operation was a complete success and Rachel carried onto full-term pregnancy and their daughter Cari was born on March 28, 2014. Unsuspecting of anything further, the hospital called Rachel two days after giving birth to ask her to come in. That was when doctors told her of the devastating news of the discovery of a cancerous tumour.
“When I realised that doctors hadn’t told me about my cancer I was so shocked – they told me the reason for not telling me until Cari was born was due to the fact I wouldn’t be able to have an MRI to see if cancer had spread until after she was born. In the short term, it didn’t feel right, but five years on, I know it was the right decision they made for us.”
The MRI Scans showed no signs of cancer having spread. In the five years since surgery, doctors have carefully monitored Rachel due to the risks of the cancer returning. But now she is officially cancer free and counts herself lucky the cancer was found in time, regarding Cari as her miracle baby. Being pregnant triggered the issue with Rachel’s appendix meaning she needed surgery – without this, the chances are that the tumour wouldn’t have been found.
Rachel no longer requires any treatment, but one side effect of cancer was that she was left with the feeling of anxiety every day. As a result, she started running at the suggestion of a friend whom she confided in. Before she knew it, Rachel had completed a 12 week “Couch to 5k” training plan over the summer. She went onto join a local running club and has now completed several 10k’s and half-marathons, including the JCP Swansea Half Marathon.
“I got my all-clear scan result this year which was like a weight had been lifted off me. You can now notice a change in my anxiety, and I have a much more positive outlook on life. Cancer has changed my outlook in every way. I now feel in control of my life and have much more confidence to do things, and a determination to do what I want to do. Coming through this journey and taking up running has really helped me on all sorts of levels not only from a mental health perspective but also on a physical level.”
“I was never a sporty person – I was the one who used to bring in notes to get out of PE when I was at school – so to take up running was something alien to me. But my determination and training have enabled me to run the London marathon, and my next big race at Swansea Half, whilst raising funds for Cancer Research UK. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can!”
If you feel inspired by Rachel’s story and would like to take part in the SOLD-OUT JCP Swansea Half Marathon, whilst raising vital life-saving funds for Cancer Research UK goto: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/get-involved/find-an-event/jcp-swansea-half-marathon to sign up, get your free running top, training plans, and fundraising advice. You’re sure to have an amazing experience, so why not join Team CRUK and together we will beat cancer.
The JCP Swansea Half Marathon takes place on SUNDAY 23rd JUNE 2019 starting at 10 am from the iconic Brangwyn Hall, taking runners from the city centre, leading to the mumbles, along the beautiful sweeping Swansea Bay. The course is perfect for first-timers, fun runners, charity runners and elites on its flat, fast course. The route is well organised, fully marshalled and supported by spectators and bands to help runners on their way for a momentous finish at Swansea Museum. The event also holds a family fun run for anyone supporting their loved ones who are taking part in the half marathon, anyone interested in registering can do so on the website: www.swanseahalfmarathon.co.uk/family-dash