Sisters Combine To Run Half Marathon In Cardiff In Honour Of Late Dad
Two sisters will take on two separate Cardiff Half Marathons in 2022 in honour of their late father, who died of prostate cancer.
A year after her father passed away, Newport-based Audiologist Helen Coles, 44, will take on the 13.1-mile event in the Welsh capital in October 2022, seven months after her sister completed the rearranged March event.
Helen had been set to run alongside her sister Janet, her sister’s partner Ian and her husband Matt but was hit by Covid a day before the March event, so deferred her place for seven months. The quartet have already raised more than £11,400.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, affecting one in eight men, and one in four black men. Dad John Hollywell was diagnosed in October 2020 after initially believing a nagging back ache was down to over-exerting himself in the garden that summer.
Helen said: “I think we were all stunned and completely shocked as even then dad had seemed okay.
“I’d always thought if you were going to get any form of cancer, prostate cancer, was the best one as I always thought it was so slow growing and something else might happen in the meantime. How naive I was.”
Initially after the diagnosis John had hormone injections, blood transfusions and radiotherapy. He had managed the hot flushes from his hormone treatment and the radiation was effective at managing the pain.
Then sadly in March 2021 the family was given the news that the hormone therapy wasn’t working and that chemotherapy was the next thing to try.
Helen added: “Dad bravely went for this but within a few rounds he was getting weaker and it was decided it would need to be paused for a few weeks. He then tried again but he was noticeable deteriorating and increasingly in pain, so again it was stopped.
“At the beginning of July he lost the feeling in his legs and sadly fell. We were having a BBQ at the time and whilst he went down very slowly and most of us would get up without an issue, dad had broken his arm and neck. He spent most of the summer in hospital and with the complications of the infections caused by the neck brace and the cancer spreading we sadly lost him on September 10th.”
The implications of the pandemic also made life hugely difficult with John left to face much of his journey alone. And running proved a release for Helen as she dealt with the news about her dad.
She added: “I think between dad’s experience and Covid, it has highlighted life is precious and tomorrow isn’t a given. It’s also the first time I have not been able to ‘fix’ a problem and that is quite humbling that sometimes there just aren’t the answers that you want. Hence if we can find a solution through research, which comes from funding, and I play my own very small part by doing this run then maybe one day we hopefully will find the solution which will fix the problem.
“When dad got diagnosed, running for me was a good way to release the frustration and a good time to cry, but over the past year it is often the time I think about dad and can reflect on lots of happy times.
“Dad was never a runner, and whenever I spoke about a charity event I was doing he would say, ‘You must be mad’ and this one was no different. Dad originally hoped he would be at the finish line cheering us on but sadly that wasn’t to be. But I know he will be cheering me on in spirit.”
Helen has twice previously completed the Cardiff Half, and has also run the Great North Run. She admitted anything over 10k is not hugely enjoyable, adding: “I promised myself that I would never do a half marathon again after my last one in 2019. Obviously that changed.
“On the other hand Jan has never been a runner and probably would say she almost hated it as she much preferred swimming prior to Covid. However, with pools closed down and working from home, the need to get out and do something forced her to try running and she has surprised herself how much she enjoys it. Jan would never have thought she would or could run a half marathon, so I’m so proud of her.”
This September also marks a year since John passed away, and Helen admitted there are all kinds of feelings as the run becomes closer.
She added: “I think it is a mixture of emotions for me as we get to the anniversary in September. Dad suffered so much, especially in the last three months of his life, as he broke his neck, as the cancer had spread into his bones. This summer has been harder remembering how quickly he went downhill and the pain he was in.
“A few days before he passed he admitted he had had enough, so when he died it was almost a relief he was no longer in any pain. If I’m honest I’ve never felt so useless and helpless which was one of the reasons I think Jan and I wanted to run the half marathon so we could feel like we were doing something. We couldn’t change the diagnosis for dad or take away any of what he was going through but training for the half marathon gave us a purpose.
“I remember telling dad he had to keep fighting and now whenever I feel like I’m too tired to run, I remind myself he went through a lot worse pain than me just being tired!”
You can sponsor Helen and Janet at Helen Coles is fundraising for PROSTATE CANCER UK (justgiving.com) and for more information about prostate cancer, including the award-winning 30-secomd online risk checker, visit https://prostatecanceruk.org/