Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Survivor's Story...

By Frank
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I have been running for more than a year now. From my first step to my first 10KM leading all the way to 42KM and getting my first medal, and recently suffering my first cramp at Sundown Marathon, it has been a wonderful experience. A journey not only to suffer through the pain but yet one that will push me to a stage where I have yet to be at. And being a lonely individual, running has exposed me to a network of friends. Some were fast, some like me, some slower and yet some arrogant! But no matter, this allows me to see and understand the world even more.

However, there has been one thing that many didn’t know about me. My past. My running story. How it all began? What led me to running and who are the ones behind my success? Not many people know that I’m a cancer survivor and being one isn’t easy. Yes, you read that right. I'm a cancer survivor. To keep it within my heart is not a simple task when others are looking at me from a different point of view without knowing. I didn't want to share my past with people I know as I fear that I will be treated differently. And in running, I do not want to be trained differently. Although I know I'm different, I just want to be myself. But as each day pass, I guess it’s time to share what I have gone through.

Back in March 2008, I’ve started writing an article about my running story to be published on Footloose, the Pacesetters quarterly newsletter to share with fellow runners. It has yet to be published yet though as I wrote this entry. But on one morning while having my long run alongside Jamie Pang from Runners Malaysia, he asked me for that article to be published on his website. And so I agreed and after editing it being slightly more detail than the first version, Jamie helped me published it a couple of weeks ago. And here’s my write-up.

"Running has always been my main aerobic exercise to stay healthy. Since my kiddy days, I always follow my dad on weekends to the park for a light jog. It was until the age of 12 when I was diagnose with cancer that put a stop to it. I was diagnosed with a type of sarcoma cancer on my left wrist which affects the muscles and other soft tissues of the affected area. I needed an operation on my left wrist to remove the tumuor followed by treatment. I underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy for almost 3 years, and I couldn’t involve myself in any physical activities such as running. I bloated up like a balloon and my weight almost hit 80KG.
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.As per request, here's a comparison of me from the year 1996 (left) and today (right). Don't laugh ya...

At age 15, when all treatment had cease and my condition got better, I decided to get myself back into shape. I started running again but not very often as I picked up mountain biking. My parents weren’t supportive and kept telling me to quit, but I didn’t. It wasn’t easy when I first started due to my weight, but eventually through persistent, I managed to overcome many obstacles including bringing down my weight. And 2 years down the road, I was finally crown champion in one of the races I participated in. I retired there as I have achieved my goal and this sport had caused me a fair amount of injuries which still affects me till today, although not as serious as before.

It was in year 2006 when I decided to take up running after reading much of it in various running blogs. However, as I was still struggling with knee problems, I decided to give myself a year before competing in my first race which was the KL International Marathon 2007. Again, my parents weren’t supportive but I decided to go on. In fact till today, they aren’t supporting me. But luckily, I have found tremendous support from a special friend of mine. I joined the gym and started training and also in the meantime, doing some rehab exercises for my knee. I even studied the human body anatomy by going through books and also the Internet to give myself a clearer understanding on my own body. And besides going through all the scientific stuffs, I also followed
Ronnie (PM1) and also Jamie (carboman) blogs as I found them to be informative.

One year passed, and I eventually made my debut at KLIM07. Call me crazy for taking up a full marathon at my first race. I managed to complete the race in 05:50:10. Although I suffered during the race and couldn’t walk for a day later, I felt extremely good and proud of myself. And thus, it all started here when I decided to pick up my momentum on running and a few days later, I dropped by at Pacesetters office and signed up as a member and eventually met many new friends. I ran in races around the Klang Valley and as time passes, I found out that it couldn’t satisfy my hunger for more. I began looking at other states and eventually signed up for the Penang Bridge Half Marathon 2007. But it still wasn’t enough, and I finally went oversea at the Singapore Marathon 2007. My second full marathon and I got better.

It’s 2008 now and it has been a year plus since I started running. After following Ronnie and Jamie’s blog for almost 2 years, I finally decided to introduce myself to them back in January 2008. And I did not regret it at all as I met up with lots of running people through them and also eventually trained with them. I express my gratitude to them as not only they allowed me to train with them although I’m a slower runner, they also motivated me and treated me just like part of their “running family”. At this time of writing, I just completed my third marathon at the KL International Marathon 2008 a month ago, clocking a sub-5 hours time! I have set myself a target of 4 full marathons this year and am now training for my second being the Sundown Marathon at Singapore.

With my cancer history and fair amount of injuries I suffered through mountain biking, I never thought that I could defy the odds with my running achievements today. But as running has brought my life back, I’m glad I made the decision 2 years back to take it up. To me, I’m not a competitive runner. I do not regard the other runners to be my opponents as I know the only one thing or person that can stop me, is myself. So here’s to share my motto to everyone. “It’s not the question on how we fall, but it’s how we pick ourselves up again”.
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I do hope my story will be able to inspire people out there to take up not only running but also to do the things that they have long waited to do as life is just too short to give it a miss. My above published article on Runner's Malaysia can be seen here. And many thanks to Jamie for helping me publish it.

9 comments:

C-CUBE said...

U are a Survivor and a very strong headed one too. You have tear out the word IMPOSSIBLE and make it I M POSSIBLE. Keep it up buddy!!!!

David said...

Frank, your 'before' looks healthier than your 'after' pic lar.

Runnerz said...

c-cube: So is being strong headed good? I wonder. Hmmm...

david: Looks doesn't determine everything. It's how we feel that is important.

biastee said...

Keepin active is the only way to prevent a recurrence. Anyway, now I feel less lonely that I am not the only cancer survivor running in races. Ironically, my bladder cancer was discovered through running. I noticed blood in the urine at the end of the Ipoh 21k race in '02 (also a PB) and have the tumour removed a few days later. Post-op, the doctor forbade me from running for 2 weeks - but I only could abstain for 1 week before hitting the roads again. This year, I did KLIM and RMAF 21k. Had I known another cancer survivor were in the same races, I will have looked up for you.

Runnerz said...

biastee: You can always look for me in races as I'm pretty active lately. Do drop me an e-mail at runnerzcircle@yahoo.com.

CapArnabBrand said...

Big salute to you Frank! You give inspiration to many out there. Now, only if your story can circulate to more than just the running community. It will open eyes and show people that anything is possible, and that the will to believe and do surpasses all obstacles.

Runnerz said...

caparnabbrand: You have my thanks. Hmm... True also but this is the only medium I have to publish my story. Just hope even normal people will be able to read it.

biastee said...

caparnabbrand, A terminal illness rudely interrupts routine life and awakens one to the limited time left. This gives a different sense of urgency to one's training and is perhaps why a previously unremarkable cyclist like Lance Armstrong was suddenly transformed into a 5 time Tour de France winner after his cancer diagnosis in 96 (see story in J Appl Physiol • VOL 98 • JUNE 2005 • www.jap.org). Or how Deanna Kastor won the '08 US marathon trial despite having a 3rd recurrence of her melanoma only a couple of months before. Yes, there is no shortage of inspiring examples of ca survivors in endurance sport.

This Girl You Know said...

hi frank, thought your story was touching and inspiring. i do run myself for leisure and tension release and i aspire to have determination like yours. i read your blog alot and it makes me sign up for more and more marathons. i will be attempting my first 22.7km during the Adidas KOTR. thanks for the inspiration :D