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Mini marathon for women: ‘When I run, I think: if my husband can get through his chemo, I can get through this too’

Vaseline 3 months ago

After a tough year, including her husband’s cancer diagnosis and a miscarriage, Lauren Nelson decided to set herself the goal of running the mini-marathon, inspired by husband Darragh’s positive attitude and daughter Sophia’s safe arrival.

Darragh was in Ballyboden’s senior football team, so the newlyweds assumed it was an injury he sustained on the field. “If something happens to him, we automatically attribute it to: ‘oh, it must be a sports injury’. We weren’t even worried about it, but we had it checked by the doctor almost immediately,” says Lauren. Even the doctors assumed it would turn out to be benign, but sent him for an MRI anyway.

When they returned from seeing their best friends get married, with Darragh as best man, they received news that would change everything. “Then we got the call that the MRI was suspicious. That was the last day where everything felt normal, to be honest,” she remembers.

Doctors soon knew Darragh had cancer, but they weren’t sure what type it was. During the lengthy process of figuring out what diagnosis to make, Lauren discovered she was pregnant. “For the next four weeks we were both back and forth for tests,” says Nelson.

But bad news awaited them both. The baby didn’t grow as they had hoped, and Lauren miscarried. At the same time, her husband’s diagnosis was a sarcoma so rare he is the only person in Ireland to have it.

The treatment would involve surgery – which Darragh began without knowing whether or not he would be able to keep his arm – radiation and then chemotherapy. The conversation quickly turned to his fertility, and whether it would be affected in the future.

“We really wanted to give Molly a brother or sister and we said, ‘Let’s just give it one chance before the radiation starts because we just don’t know what’s lurking around the corner.’ We never thought for a second that we would be lucky enough for this to happen,” says Lauren.

“I lost both my grandparents in the past year, but the day after we buried my nanny we found out I was pregnant again, a week before Darragh started radiation therapy. It felt like a real gift from my grandmother.” The couple soon welcomed their second daughter, Sophia.

In June, Lauren will be running the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon in support of Sarcoma Cancer Ireland, a not-for-profit organization that provides support to patients and families across the country. “I found the SCI Instagram on a very dark day just before Darragh’s surgery and Carol (one of the main volunteers/patient herself) responded to me immediately via their DMs and gave me so much hope and remains a person I reach out to for advice,” Lauren explains.

“She always visited us over the past year and the charity offers patient grants, free counselling, monthly support groups, patient information days and a WhatsApp group where patients and carers can vent, share stories and ask questions.”

The race also serves as a personal challenge; a challenge that has been a welcome distraction from the stress of her husband’s illness and all that comes with it. “I’m not a big runner or anything like that, but after the year we’ve had, I obviously just wanted to give myself a goal that was just for me. Obviously everything was quite intense last year and sports or anything like that was put on the back burner,” she says.

“I just set a goal, and the mini-marathon was kind of the perfect opportunity to have something that I could build myself up with and also do something good with, like raise some money,” she adds . . Moreover, thanks to her husband’s many years in the field, she has the perfect personal trainer at home.

Despite the hardships they have suffered in recent years, the Nelsons present a united front. “You don’t know how you will react in these situations. If someone told me three years ago that something like this would happen, I don’t know how I would have gotten through it, but like anything… we’re honestly so happy every day with where we are with the girls,” says Lauren.

Lauren Nelson is running the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon in aid of Sarcoma Cancer Ireland. Photo: Steve Humphreys

“People would think that the past year was pure doom and gloom in our house. And yeah, there have been some really scary moments and stuff, but he (Darragh) just knows he can fight this. Like, he’s so positive in a way that he’s not just pretending. I fully believe that he believes in his soul that everything will be okay, and that makes me feel good.”

The mantra they repeat is one that Darragh has tattooed on his wrist, as a reminder of his football days. WHITE, or whatever it takes. “He’s so, so strong. I can’t describe how he takes all this comfortably, because people wouldn’t believe it. I remember saying to the doctor, ‘What about football? Football is what he does, it’s his life.” Darragh was so pragmatic. He was like, ‘We’ll just do what we have to do, whatever it takes,'” she says.

When it comes to the 10km ahead of her this June Bank Holiday weekend, that same affirmation will see her across the finish line. “When I’m running, I can only do 3/4 km at the moment, but I’m thinking, if I could get through last year’s marathon, I can get through this run, I can do this. Even when I went to give birth to Sophia, all I was thinking about was whether Darragh could do what he did every three weeks; undergoing chemotherapy, being away from us for over a week each time, I can do this. Sophia was born in an hour and a half,” she says laughing.

“I set myself a goal of 90 minutes to do this (run) and I don’t want to curse myself or anything, but I feel like I can do it… I know I can, because I know I it’ll just do I think if we can get through last year, I can do this.

The Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon takes place in Dublin on Sunday 2 June. Register at vhiwomensminimarathon.ie