Tag Archives: cancer

The Cancer Ladies’ Running Club is just around the corner…

My new Josie Lloyd book. Out 13th May 2021.

This week, my Josie Lloyd novel, The Cancer Ladies’ Running Club hits the shops. It’s a big moment. I haven’t written a solo Josie Lloyd book since ‘It Could Be You’ way back in 1997. To say I’m nervous is an understatement, because this is by far and away the most personal thing I’ve ever written.

This book came about because in 2017 I was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine scan and it came as a terrible shock. Overnight, it felt as my life as I knew it had come to a screeching halt. It felt to me as if a big ‘Cancer’ label had been slapped on me and I had no means of getting rid of it. I hated it.

My first instinct was to look for a book. In difficult times, I always turn to fiction for answers and clarity, but whilst there were plenty of memoirs and non-fiction books about various ways to get through cancer, they all felt a bit subjective. I wanted a comforting story. A story that would tell me that everything would be OK. I didn’t want something mawkish or sad, or more depressingly – about mothers dying with tubes up their noses. I needed to believe in a more positive outcome.

Representation in all forms of media matters. There’s a great organisation, SeeJane.org whose motto, ‘If she can see it, she can be it,’ promotes bringing positive female role models to the screen, so that young girls can imagine being astronauts, or politicians.

In the same, (but very small way), my hope with this book is to fly the flag for women who, like me, are not just surviving cancer, but positively thriving as a result of going through it. My hope is to do some debunking, because one in two of us will get cancer in our lifetimes and one in eight women get breast cancer. We need to start talking about it to stop it being so scary. Because, yes, it is terrifying and not everyone has great outcomes, but we have amazing treatments in this country and the means of early detection with scanning. Believe me, I thank my lucky stars every day that my cancer was picked up in time.

It’s important to get the message out there, too, that getting outside and exercising is massively beneficial, both physically and mentally. I know that for me, putting on a pair of trainers and being out in the sunshine was the most effective way of putting two fingers up to cancer. Running made me feel as if I was reclaiming my mojo. And it’s the same for Keira in the book. Because when she joins a group of women who have all experienced cancer, she finds her tribe and in doing so, finds her feet.

This week, I’m doing loads of publicity and was on Michael Ball’s show on Radio 2, which I’m delighted to say, resonated with some women who got in touch with me to share their stories. Hearing from people, who, like me are sensitive to bad-news cancer stories and found the message of positivity and hope inspiring has made me so happy. I’ll be delighted if the book is a best seller, of course, but if I can make a difference to just a few people, then that will be the best outcome ever.

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Marathon Madness

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Well,  yesterday I did the Brighton Marathon.  Despite all my reluctance and belly aching, I got myself around it in four hours and 52 long minutes and I feel….well, brilliant.  Mentally, that is.  Euphoric.

Physically, I’m a wreck.  I feel bone-achingly tired, in the way I’ve only ever felt after child-birth.  My feet are road kill and I can’t look at the stairs without whimpering.

But what an amazing experience.  80,000 people lined the streets of Brighton on the most perfect of sunny days and they cheered themselves hoarse.  What I wasn’t expecting – and what is the most brilliant part – is that it was like having a five-hour standing ovation.

The whole thing was very humbling too, and moving.  When you get into the starting corals according to your colour-code of what time you think you’ll do (we were at the back) you realize the bigger purpose of such an event.  The large majority of people are running for a charity, or in loving memory of someone.  As well as men in Sumo suits, banana costumes, Scooby-do outfits and even one sporting chap dressed as a testicle, there are pictures of little babies in intensive care on the back of peoples’ shirts, along with beloved Mums and Dads, brothers, sisters who’ve been lost.  One old couple in their late 60’s were running together in memory of their daughter who died of cancer when she was my age.

As a fellow runner, you get to read all these messages up close and experience the determination of the people who have taken up the fight against all sorts of terrible diseases.  On the marathon day, those people who have been lost are not forgotten.  It makes you feel so grateful to be alive and fit.

I was amazed, too, by the diversity of people running.  In previous blogs, I’ve slagged off the men in Lyra – and sure enough there were plenty of those NSOH-types in Preston park at the start.  I have to say that seeing a man rub Vaseline into his balls at 7.30am on a Sunday morning was pretty gross.  As was the bloke we bumped into who showed us pictures of his septic cysts on his iPhone.

But once we got underway and out into the crowds, the whole atmosphere shifted.  Down in Hove it was street-party time all the way, as people brought sound systems out of their homes and pumped out ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and Tina’s ‘Simply the best’, to motivate the runners.  Kids handed out jelly babies and Mum’s wedges of orange.  I even got offered a can of lager, but at mile 16, I declined.  I was tempted though.

The worst bit  was the penultimate leg which went down through the docks to the power station.  First we ran through ‘The Wall’ – and actual wall – rigged up over the road, then a sign said, ‘Welcome to the Road to Hell.’  I felt a shimmer of dread as I passed it.  After all the crowds on the rest of the course, this bit was only runners. Thousands of us pounding the tarmac in pain.  You expect hell to be noisy, but it’s so much worse when its silent.

As I ran towards the pier, I honestly felt like every step was going to be my last.  But with a crowd ten deep screaming my name, I didn’t stop.  When I crossed the line, I did that  comedy wobbly leg thing you sometimes see athletes do and staggered into the arms of a helper.  Then I burst into tears.

So I’m sunburnt and sore, but I’ve got a big, fat Jim’ll Fix-it style medal of which I’m extremely proud.  I raised a whole load of money for charity and now know that I can run from here to London without stopping, if absolutely necessary.

Will I ever do another marathon? No chance.

As my great mate afterwards said, ‘Jo, can your midlife crisis take on another direction now?  Maybe the convertible Mercedes route?’  I’m inclined to agree.

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