'Many thanks for your application to run for Leukaemia CARE in the Virgin London Marathon 2012. We’d like to congratulate you; against the many hundreds of competing applicants you have been selected to join ‘Team Bertie’ for the Virgin London Marathon 2012. '
I looked at the email, a look of utter disbelief on my face. What had I signed myself up to do? I wasn't a marathon runner, I could barely go to the shops without getting out of breath and occasionally got a stitch walking... downhill. I wasn't a water-guzzler, a fruit- eater, a runner; I was a 23 year old with a very strong liking for vodka, late nights and fags.
In order to understand the complexities of my craziness we have to go back, all the way back to October 28th 2010. I was in bed, mulling in the aftermath of a drunken haze, the nightclub stamp still imprinted firmly on my hand, the stench of booze and fags fermenting in the air, last night's make-up staining the pillow - you get the drift: not a pretty picture.
“ring ring... ring ring” - I pulled the covers over my head, trying to drown out the noise that was making my head pound fiercely. The sound died out, no answer, 10 minutes later the phone rang again.
“Please stop, my head!!!”- I yelled.
I eventually dragged my sorry state out of bed and answered.
“Oh hello, is Mr Bustillo there?” The urgent voice at the end of the line awoke me from my groggy state.
“Ermmmm,... I think he’s out. Can I take a message?”
'Yes, can you tell him to ring Dr Lewis as soon as possible please, it's urgent'. My heart stopped.
“Yeah, ermmm, certainly, I will pass on the message”...The line went dead. I rattled what was left of my brain: 'Doctor'...'urgent'. I made a large cup of coffee and waited for my dad to return. The phone rang 3 times before my dad returned, all with the same urgent tone.
“Dad, the doctor called, said it was urgent, regarding your tests, said to ring them back”. My hand trembled as I passed him the coffee-stained note as he walked through the door.
This was the moment the world stood still.
This was the moment the world stood still.
“Oh hello Mr Bustillo, I have been trying to reach you, I'm afraid there have been some abnormalities detected in your blood. We would like to get you up to hospital as soon as possible'
I held my dad's trembling hand, and watched him crumble in fear,
'Is it ....?' His voice broke helplessly.
He dropped into his seat.
The next hours were the most painful my family has experienced. I watched my dad, who never shed a tear for anything, sob helplessly into my mother's arms. We sat there for hours, all holding hands, crying, all in shock. The diagnosis: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, ('ALL') - blood cancer to you or me.
Months of chemotherapy and radiation followed. My family fell apart. I watched as my 50 year old dad began to resemble a 90 year old within a matter of weeks; a man who could once take two steps at a time going up the stairs could now barely take one. It was hell for no better of a word. I became distant, detatched. I wanted to run - run away as fast as I could from the situation.
In March 2011 my dad received a vital stem cell transplant from his brother. He is now 100+ days after the transplant, and still fighting strong. We take every day as it comes.
So you see, it's only after this long, exhausting, emotional marathon that one decides to run a rather long, exhausting, physical marathon. As you do.
In fact, I had decided to turn my running away from the situation into something good - running into the light and not into the dark. Running for a good cause.
On a whim I decided to enter ‘Race for Life’ for Cancer Research, a 5k dash in my local
park, without any training, none, nada. It rendered me nearly dead. The finish line picture, wherever it is, probably has pushing the vomit back into my mouth - lovely thought.
This journey isn't all about cancer, although it is my catalyst, my ‘starting gun’. It is more about overcoming obstacles in your life. In my case, overcoming an unhealthy lifestyle and doing something for the greater good - moving away from the negative and into the positive. Take what you want from it. I hope you will follow my journey. I will be documenting every step throughout my training, sharing thoughts and challenges that may arise. I hope it will show that anything is possible, if someone like me can make it through 26.2 miles of what may well be pure pain, then you can too.
Life is what you make it, and even if you don’t take that away from this, perhaps you willfind it mildly amusing that I'm even attempting this in the first place. This will no doubt be a period of self-discovery for me, and I hope you will follow me every step of the way - whether it be 5, 500 or 53,000 steps to the finish line.
For my dad.
Thank you for reading.