Posted on Thursday 5 March 2020
Young breast cancer survivor takes on marathon challenge less than a year after diagnosis
A 25-year-old Clevedon woman is taking on Bath Half Marathon this month to raise vital money for charity, less than a year on from being diagnosed with cancer.
Polly Atherton was diagnosed with breast cancer after finding a lump in May last year, aged just 24. The keen runner discovered the lump the day before she was due to run Bristol 10k.
On Sunday, March 15, Polly will be taking on the 13.1 mile challenge in Bath to raise money for CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading charity for children and young people with cancer, after the charity supported Polly throughout her treatment.
Polly said the cancer diagnosis didn’t come as a shock. The trainee tax advisor and her sister had both tested positive for the BRCA 2 gene mutation after Polly’s mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the age of 20, doctors recommended Polly have a double mastectomy.
“My mum had breast cancer when she was 46 and my grandma had breast cancer in her 60s. Her sister had died of breast cancer aged 36 and their mum had died of it too. Doctors put my sister and I at a 70 to 80 per cent risk that we would get breast cancer. But because the chance of getting cancer before 30 was low, I wasn’t as worried about getting the mastectomy until then and I kept putting it off. Hindsight is great but I just didn’t think I would get cancer aged 24.”
Following her cancer diagnosis, Polly had a double mastectomy in June last year and has since had six rounds of chemotherapy and now has to have monthly injections to suppress her ovaries.
“The injections essentially are putting me into the menopause. I’m also at increased risk of ovarian cancer and so I will have my ovaries taken out in the next couple of years, I just don’t know when yet. It’s strange to go through so much so young but because of that you remain detached from it.”
Polly has remained positive throughout her cancer journey and continued a huge passion of hers throughout treatment, to run.
“I like to think cancer hasn’t impacted my life. Running has always been a big part of my life. The week after I had chemo I couldn’t run or do anything, but slowly I’ve picked it back up and could jog again.
“The training is going well. Already when I look back to where I was before treatment, I remember I have just gone through six months of chemotherapy and I know I will get there.”
Polly is taking on the Bath Half Marathon alongside her partner and as part of a team of five to raise money for CLIC Sargent.
CLIC Sargent and (social worker) Suzie have just been so nice that I really just wanted to do something to give back.
Polly said: “I first had contact with CLIC Sargent when I met Suzie, a CLIC Sargent social worker and she has been really great. She helped signpost me to benefits and really helped with letting me know everything I was entitled to and I received a CLIC Sargent grant.
“My parents live in Lincolnshire and so when they came down to visit me in hospital in Bristol, Suzie helped arrange free accommodation for them close to the hospital which helped so much. CLIC Sargent and Suzie have just been so nice that I really just wanted to do something to give back.”
Sarah Manion, CLIC Sargent’s Sports and Challenges Manager, said: “We are completely in awe of Polly and her amazing enthusiasm and determination. We are so grateful to her and the team for raising money for CLIC Sargent, and ensuring we can be there to continue to support more young people facing cancer. We can’t wait to cheer Polly and her team all the way to the finish line!”
Rachel Kirby-Rider has been appointed as CEO at CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading charity for young cancer patients and their families.
Signet Jewelers has teamed up with Pennies and CLIC Sargent to help raise funds to support young cancer patients in the UK, with a quarter of a million micro-donations made in the partnership’s first four months alone.