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Getting active to 'move against cancer'

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People living with and beyond cancer in the Oxfordshire area are encouraged to get active as part of a new support group launching in Oxford and Didcot in April 2019.

The 5KYourWay group invites cancer patients (current and survivors), as well as their families, friends and those working in cancer services to walk, jog, run, cheer or volunteer at a local ParkRun event on the last Saturday of every month.

This is a community-based initiative to encourage more people who live with a cancer diagnosis stay active.

Saturday 27 April 2019 sees the launch of the Oxford (Cutteslowe Park) and Didcot (Bowmont Water, off Avon Way) runs. It is already up and running in Bicester (Langford Fields).

Physical activity has been shown to have a number of important benefits for people living with cancer. In addition to being social and fun, it reduces cancer-related fatigue, helps to preserve heart and muscle fitness, and improves psychological wellbeing. It could also reduce treatment side effects and the risk of cancer recurrence, as well as prolong survival.

Brenda Kelly, a Consultant Obstetrician at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has helped set up the Oxford 5KYourWay with Trust colleagues Rachel McMinnis, a Paediatric Oncology Physiotherapist, and Tess McPherson, a Consultant Dermatologist.

Brenda, who recently completed treatment for breast cancer, said: "I walked each day during my first cycle of chemotherapy, even on days when I felt a bit rubbish. 

"Just being outside and moving felt great. During my second cycle, I decided to give ParkRun a go. I had lost my hair by then and felt a bit self-conscious. I was also very slow.

"There were times when all I wanted to do was stop and sit down, but other runners and volunteers kept cheering me on. 

"The feeling I had when I eventually crossed the finish line was amazing. I felt joyous and alive. After that, I did ParkRun every two weeks with friends and family throughout chemo and radiotherapy.

"Keeping active made an enormous difference in combatting side-effects of treatment and importantly, it was a huge tonic for my emotional wellbeing."

Tess was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 when pregnant. She said: "As with many people, a diagnosis of cancer was life-changing and challenging.

"I was advised to keep active and this has felt like incredibly useful advice. It helped me get through treatment, and doing regular exercise, especially being outside, has helped my physical and mental health in recovery and coping with life.

"ParkRun is a fantastic way to be active in a supportive community."

The initiative, which started in Nottingham in November 2018 with one event, has become hugely popular - by the end of April 2019 it will be up and running in 25 English cities and towns, as well as four locations in Ireland.

See for more information.