I began my job at Highgate School last August, less than three weeks after undergoing a radical prostatectomy. It wasn’t the whiz-bang start I’d planned. One week I was cheerfully doing charity work out in Sri Lanka, oblivious to the emergency treatment I required, the next week I was under the knife. Since then, I have slowly but surely got fitter and stronger, and now, thanks in part to the running app “Couch to 5K”, I’m ready to try and run 5K, for the first time in my life.
Initially my virtual coach on the app was a woman called Laura, who occasionally said “You’re doing really well!” into my earphones. After a couple of weeks, however, I sensed that Laura’s interest in me was fading – her encouragement was distant, and I once thought I could hear a cigarette being crushed into an ashtray, as she hoarsely chivvied me along. And so I changed my mentor to the multi gold medallist sprinter Michael Johnson, who has got me through, from running for a minute and taking a 90 second break, to running non-stop for half an hour.
5K may be a stroll in the park for some, but it’s something of a marathon for me. Post-cancer (and this is my second time around the oncological block) the body doesn’t behave, respond, or bounce back as it used to. The last kilometre will be hard.
In one way, I’m running for myself – proving that that life has much more to offer me, and that I’m purposed, and have much more to do. But I’m also running for the all the men, and their families (including the courageous fellow patients I talked with at Guy’s Hospital throughout my treatment), who are facing the many challenges of this beastly disease, whose lives have altered course and, for many, whose identity as “men” has been re-framed. And I’m running in honour of my dear father, who would have been 92 today.
But most of all, I’m running to raise some cash for Prostate Cancer UK. We probably all know someone living under the shadow of this disease – in fact, one in eight men in the UK will be diagnosed with it during their lives. Research into this disease, sadly, is woefully underfunded; tests and treatments trail behind many other common cancers, and their quality and availability varies dramatically across the UK. So please give a “Fiver for the Father” to fund ground-breaking research, drive improvements in treatments, and fight injustice in care.
Father Robert Easton
Former journalist and academic publisher, Father Robert has spent his professional life absorbed by the written word, and he hopes that a short, daily blog will keep him occupied, and connected with the Highgate community that he so loves. He lives in Brighton with Kai, his beautiful wife, and Seamus his scurrilous dog.