Jackie Scully took up running during chemotherapy for breast cancer. In 2017 she ran the London Marathon on her wedding day.
When I heard the words ‘You have breast cancer’ just three weeks after getting engaged to my partner of 13 years, it would have been so easy to be angry.
At 32, I thought young women didn’t get breast cancer. I thought it was my time to play catch-up (most of my friends were married and on their second child), enjoy life, talk about the future, make wedding guest lists, search for the perfect venue and plan my homemade three-tier cake.
I was wrong.
But when I look back over my treatment year, 2014 was less about getting angry and more about getting fit.
Running made me feel alive
When I was diagnosed, my first response was to let the experts get on with the cancer so that I could focus on me.
It was Breast Cancer Care that gave me the confidence to believe that even I, with a hip full of metal (from having my leg rebuilt in my 20s), could be a runner.
Running became my reason to get out of bed and into the fresh air. And running my first ever 10k for Breast Cancer Care, just a week before my last chemo, made me feel more alive than I had ever felt.
In that moment – which was painful given I still had a PICC line in my arm from having chemotherapy and was recovering from breast reconstruction surgery – I realised I would always want fundraising and running to play a part in my life.
Our marathon wedding
When treatment was over and our thoughts turned to wedding planning, we decided the days of having a traditional big day were behind us. That’s why we pulled off a world-first by getting married on the Cutty Sark at 7.30am before running the London Marathon.
No one expected it. No one fully believed it. The father of the bride even ran, with his own hip full of metal.
With a jelly baby bouquet, a designer running wedding dress made for me by professional ice skater Frankie Seaman, six hours of running (my new husband Duncan sped off for a 3 hour 27 minute finish) and trainers for wedding shoes, it was anything but ordinary. But as an event as unique as our relationship, it will stay with us forever.
After a quick rest, we trekked the Great Wall of China for our honeymoon. In so doing, we gifted back our wedding to the charities that gave us the chance to celebrate our engagement at a time that could have so easily ripped us apart. And that fact gives me a reason to smile even now.
It was hard-fought
There were times when I cried myself to sleep with pain from an injury I just couldn’t shift. I was worried our friends and family would feel let down because we weren’t giving everyone the chance to celebrate in a conventional way. I worried that we wouldn’t hit our £15,000 fundraising target and make that pain worthwhile.
But there’s nothing like thousands of people shouting your name to take the pain away. From the chanting to the free food and hugs of support, I had tears of joy in my eyes all the way round. And while every step hurt, I would do it all again.
We raised nearly £30,000, and are humbled by the generosity of those who backed our plans and made us feel anything was possible.
The challenge isn’t over
When Frankie handed over my wedding dress, she made me promise to trash it in style!
So when the dry cleaner refused to clean my sweaty dress, I decided that there was only one thing to do. On 16 September, I wore it as I dived into the Serpentine lake for a six-mile open water swim. I can think of no better way to end a year of celebrations.
Running has taught me that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Running has shown me that I am stronger than the illnesses and problems trying to stop me in my tracks. But, more than that, running and the kindness I have received have shown me that you can go an awful long way with the right people by your side.
A symbol of strength
When I was digging deep around mile-20 of the marathon, I chanted the names of all the amazing people who had helped me get to the start line. I genuinely couldn’t have done it without them.
It’s support I see when I spot a pink ribbon. Small it may be, but seeing strangers wearing a symbol so that others might find strength, gives me strength. It means the world that our wedding day should always be associated with its 25th anniversary year.
Every person’s breast cancer story is unique. For 25 years the pink ribbon has been a powerful symbol for millions affected by the disease. This year we’re celebrating their strength and inspiration with our limited edition pink ribbon pin.
Get your pink ribbon pin for just £2 – and wear it in hope, strength and unity. #PinkRibbon25