A mum who has overcome an aggressive form of cancer is running two back-to-back marathons through the Sahara Desert – just a year after finishing her treatment.
Ruth Naylor, an operations director who grew up in Fulwood and has been treated for Hodgkins lymphoma – a form of blood cancer, will take on two marathons in two days, running more than 50 miles in sweltering temperatures of up to 40 degrees centigrade.
The challenge comes just two years after Ruth was diagnosed with cancer in August 2017. The 34-year-old former corporate banker was then in the throes of building a new business and had initially put her overwhelming tiredness down to her busy lifestyle as mum to Eva, six, and Oscar, four.
But after feeling exhausted for several weeks she went to the GP – and further tests revealed a large tumour intertwined between her lung and her heart.
Ruth said: “Hearing the words ‘it’s cancer’ was the worst shock of my life. I just couldn’t believe it was happening to me. My mum died at the age of 47 of liver cancer and went from diagnosis to death in just five weeks. I kept thinking of my own children and was faced with losing everything.”
Ruth began eight months of chemotherapy treatment followed by radiotherapy at The Christie Hospital in Manchester.
She said: “Chemotherapy was brutal. It took me away from my home, my children and my life for months on end. I lost weight due to chemo sickness, I lost my waist-length blonde hair, and I lost my eyebrows and eyelashes, which fell out just weeks into treatment. Looking in the mirror, I didn’t recognise myself, and my confidence plummeted.”
Struggling with the changes to her appearance and looking to re-build her confidence, Ruth began jogging in the Cheshire countryside near her home in Hale between chemotherapy appointments and hospital visits, as a way to channel her energy into something positive.
She said: “There were times when I felt too sick to run and some days I only managed a crawl. But I can honestly say that getting out of the house and moving got me through treatment.
“By taking on the Saharan ultra marathons and running a ridiculously long way across the desert, I want to show others that they can also get through this disease and adversity – by putting one foot in front of the other.”
Between juggling family life, and co-managing her business, Ruth has ramped up her training regime in preparation for the gruelling challenge. She completes one long run a week and has a strict regime of aerobic and resistance work.
She flies to Morocco this Thursday, October 10 and will join hundreds of fundraisers from across the world in completing the challenge. She said: “I’m really nervous about it but excited too. People thought I was mad going running through cancer treatment, but the ‘high’ that comes from it is amazing. And for me, just stepping on the plane to Africa will feel like I’ve won.”
Ruth, who attended Kirkham Grammar School and now lives in Hale, Cheshire, said: “I want to show people that cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. I have two children to raise and dying is not an option for me. We should be left to face our own mortality when we’re grey, old and we’ve lived a life to remember. I won’t let cancer call the shots.”
Ruth is running in support of Manchester Beats Cancer – a newly-created fund-raising committee she chairs, which aims to raise awareness and funds for Cancer Research UK in the North West. She said: “It has been a very scary time for me, but I was convinced that I’d try and make some good come out of my cancer diagnosis by sharing my experience and supporting the work of Cancer Research UK.”
To donate to Ruth’s Saharan Run, visit: www.fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/ruths-saharan-run
For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, call 0300 123 1022 or visit www.cruk.org.