A personal trainer from Chester is leading a fundraising run for cancer treatment this Saturday, just three months after being diagnosed with a rare form of the disease.
Claire Richards, who is based at the Total Fitness Centre on Liverpool Road, was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer last November and is undergoing chemotherapy treatment at the moment.
Oesophageal cancer usually affects people aged between 60-80 and is generally associated with an unhealthy lifestyle, poor diet, smoking and drinking.
So it was a huge shock to Claire, aged 40, who doesn’t smoke or drink and whose career for the past decade has been focused on fitness, to discover that she had the disease.
She said: “‘I was having trouble swallowing and was sent for an endoscopy and they found the tumour.
“The doctors were really surprised and I was devastated.”
When she was told she was to begin chemotherapy treatment immediately one of her biggest fears was that she would lose the physical freedom she valued so highly and wouldn't be able to carry on working or running, her great passion.
But she has had three rounds of the prescribed six treatments and has never stopped working, or running. Claire is convinced this is primarily due to her high fitness level, good diet and the general positive attitude that exercise helps to foster.
She said: ‘There are some days that I feel weak and fluey but I’ve always been very driven so I make myself get out of bed and carry on and I feel much better for doing so.
“If you tell yourself you are ill you’ll feel ill, so I do the opposite.”
Claire has little choice but to carry on because as well as working, she has three small children, a son aged eight and twin daughters aged two, to look after.
The idea of the run came about because Claire went to see an oncology specialist in London who, because of her young age and the fact that she is otherwise fit and well, asked her to take part in a clinical trial of a new cancer drug which has seen very promising preliminary results.
Being involved in the trial will mean regular trips for Claire from Chester to London over an initial six-month period which will cost between £3,000-£5,000, and the run fundraiser has been designed to cater for the cost.
Claire said: “When you’re told you have cancer you feel that your choices have been taken away.
“I want to show how that need not be the case. I have been running and training for 10 years and I am passionate about the great benefits it brings.
“I love the feeling of freedom it gives me, how good it makes me feel mentally, physically and emotionally, which has helped me enormously during this very traumatic time.
“I want to be involved with the trial of the new drugs because I want to get well and I want to help other people by doing anything I can to speed up the time it takes for the drugs to reach the market.”
Almost 200 people are expected to join the 10km run from Total Fitness to Saughall and back , which starts at 9.30am on Saturday.
There is a £10 entrance fee and there will be a variety of events taking place in the gym for those who’d rather exercise inside so anyone is welcome, runners as well as non-runners.
The morning will end in the cafe with coffee and cakes donated by Claire’s clients.