Advice, Guides & Inspiration

What it’s like to run for charity, from a cancer survivor

Michelle in her Tinkerbell Macmillan outfit at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2018

In 2017, a year after being diagnosed with breast cancer in her early forties, Michelle Dench ran two half marathons and a marathon, all in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. In 2018, she raised the bar again, taking on four halves and two marathons to support the charity that helped her through chemotherapy. Here she shares with us why she’s so passionate about giving back, and what it was like to run the Great North Run for Team Macmillan.

How long have you been running?

10 Years (with a short break in 2016 for the reasons you will read!)

Why did you decide to run the Great North Run?

Watching the TV coverage in 2017, I thought the atmosphere looked reminiscent of the London Marathon.

Why did you choose to run for Macmillan?

In 2016 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. One of the things that got me through chemo was my goal to run the London Marathon in 2017. With Macmillan’s help I was offered a free 12 week training programme with a Macmillan personal trainer who was educated in cancer surgery and the effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I haven’t looked back and my body has gone from strength to strength.

The Cancer Support Manager at my hospital was a massive support to me, giving me so much advice about hair loss, information about how to cope with side effects, and offering courses that I could attend to help get me through.

With the help and support of Macmillan I got through my cancer treatment with huge positivity and I am so grateful to them.

This year I decided to raise the bar from running two half marathons and one full marathon in 2017 to completing a few 5 and 10ks, 4 half marathons (including the Great North Run) and 2 full marathons (Edinburgh and New York City), all to raise money and awareness for Macmillan.

What are you most looking forward to about it?

Mainly waving my Tinkerbell wand at all the supporters as I ran past – I have a special Tinkerbell outfit made out of Macmillan running vests! And running somewhere new.

Top tip for fundraising?

Social media (make lots of new friends!) and cake sales. Just keep plugging it!

What would you say to someone considering running for charity?

It’s extremely rewarding knowing that you’re doing something that many people couldn’t do. And it helps on the hardest moments of the run knowing that you’ve raised money for such an amazing cause. It propels you to the finish line!

Anything else you’d like to share?

My dad passed away in March 2018 after a long battle with leukaemia and myeloma. He is my absolute hero and his strength and positivity got me through my own cancer journey. He had a stem cell transplant a few years ago; this treatment added about another 18 months to his life before the cancer started to return. Being given that extra time was so important to myself and my family. I only found out recently that the treatment was administered by a Macmillan nurse. Thank you Macmillan for funding these fantastic nurses along with everything else that you do. So many people that I have talked to about Macmillan do not realise the extent of their charitable work. I didn’t know until I was diagnosed.