8th May 2020

Chris Gatenby

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Chris’s world changed when his wife, Georgie, was diagnosed with lung cancer. But after working extensively with grief counsellors, as well as support from family and friends, Chris is now trying to focus on living not existing in ‘this new unwanted version of my life’. And he’s set himself a goal to help him do that…

“I’ll be forever proud that I got to call Georgie my wife. We lived relatively close to each other in South West London. However, thanks to the power of the internet, we actually met online!

It was in late October 2016 when Georgie started getting mildly breathless when climbing stairs, that first signs started to present themselves. However, when we returned from a mini break a month or so later, she was in some discomfort and so took herself off to her doctor. She was referred for an x-ray and things unravelled from there.

On Saturday 7th January 2017, we were told by the doctors that they couldn’t see any reason that this wouldn’t be “a cancer”. Whilst a biopsy was inconclusive the medical team confirmed; Georgie had stage 4 lung cancer.

Every emotion

Those first few days, we went through every conceivable emotion. We were shocked, worried, scared. We cried. We were stoic. Surreally, at times we found a way to share some form of humour in this hideously awful new world.

Laughing together made life better. We couldn’t escape lung cancer, but we could, fleetingly, escape the horror of this new scary world by finding something to laugh about. It didn’t change the situation, but it did give us short moments of respite to allow us to reset and face what needed to be faced.

Georgie’s response was to fight. I know some people don’t like to associate cancer with a fight, but it was how Georgie chose to deal with and face her cancer. However, despite having a mutation and receiving a targeted therapy, Georgie’s cancer was very aggressive, and she died within eight months from being diagnosed.

Before she died, Georgie’s resolve turned to helping others. It was her wish to help deliver a positive change so those in the future have more options than she did. I am now focusing my energy on fulfilling her wish.

The challenge

In 2020, I’ve pledged to run one half marathon every month, finishing with a full marathon in December and all money raised will go to Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

Being the only recognised UK lung cancer charity dedicated to helping everyone affected by the disease, I felt it was important to help support their invaluable research as well as share their message that anyone can be affected by lung cancer.

Ashamedly and ignorantly, prior to Georgie’s diagnosis, I thought the only causes of lung cancer were smoking or chemicals like asbestos. Needless to say, I now know this is not the case, and so the original plan was to run all over England sharing this important message, as well as taking on the Reykjavik midnight sun run in June and ending the year by completing the Valencia marathon.

The number or distance of the runs don’t phase me. Georgie’s illness has given me a great deal of perspective. It evolved a lot and we quickly learnt that the medical plan had to be fluid to manage what she faced at that time. I’m applying the same mindset here.

A change of direction

Things started off well. By March, I had run three official half marathons. In my last one, in Cambridge, I was joined by a great friend of mine and Georgie.  Another friend also completed his own half marathon in Bournemouth in March too. Collectively we’d raised £3,000.  

Then lockdown hit and the events I had planned were cancelled. However, I’d always said that if the worst happens, I would just find another way to complete the challenge, raise the money and fulfil Georgie’s wish. At the time, I thought that would be because of injury, not a global pandemic but the same rules apply!

All I need is my trainers and I can plot a monthly route around where I live. In April, I completed the unofficial Harrogate Half Marathon and I’ve been able to arrange a socially isolating run in the closed Mother Shipton’s Cave grounds, a tourist attraction near Harrogate, in May.

The 10th May would have been our sixth wedding anniversary. These dates always hurt, but this is one is especially hard as I’ll now have had as many anniversary’s without Georgie as I had with her. It makes me really sad and being in lockdown can make it harder.

During lockdown, I’ve had too much time, time in which you reflect. I know how hard life was for Georgie when she “only” had lung cancer to face.  I have to stop myself from thinking and projecting about how much harder that version of her life would have been with COVID-19. Instead, I’m trying to use those thought to spur me on. 

Now more than ever Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation needs its supporters.  I just have to find a route to run. I can’t and I won’t stop.”

Chris is determined to complete his half marathon challenge – in isolation for now. He’s also now pledged to continue running in 2021 where he’ll run all the official races that have been missed due to COVID-19.   

You can support Chris by making a donation to his JustGiving page justgiving.com/fundraising/j4g-allyouneedislungs.