Running success story for Susan at Race For Life
Wigan's Race For Life was emotional for many of those taking part, as they helped to raise money for the fight against cancer.
But it was extra special for Susan Barnard - and not just because she was the first person to cross the finishing line.
The 44-year-old was taking part in Cancer Research UK’s Race For Life just months after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
And it was a highlight of a tough 12 months, which saw her mother diagnosed with the same disease months earlier, treatment for them both and the death of her father.
Susan, who lives in Whelley, said: “My work colleagues said, ‘Why don’t you do Race For Life this year, because of what you and your mum have been through?’
“I did it but never expected to win it. I’m speechless. It was such an unreal experience.
“For me to be able to say I’m fit and well enough to do it and then to do that, I can’t believe it.”
Susan is a keen runner, previously completing four marathons and leading runs for Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles.
She had to hang up her running shoes while receiving treatment and the Race For Life at Haigh Woodland Park marked her comeback.
She had planned to run with her children, Lillie, 17, and Oliver, 12, but was encouraged to go it alone at the start line by the pair and her work colleagues.
Susan passed her children during the run - giving them high fives on the way - and powered up the hills to cross the finish line in first place after 23 minutes.
Her colleagues from Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles were waiting for her as she finished.
She said: “I was absolutely gobsmacked. I didn’t expect that at all. I still can’t believe it. We were all huddled together having a big hug and crying. It was lovely at the same time.”
Running has played a key role for Susan - it was after pacing runners at the Wigan 10k in September that she found a lump on her breast.
Susan said: “I discovered it completely by accident when I was getting changed after the Wigan 10k.”
Six weeks later she was told she had breast cancer.
The diagnosis came just four months after her mother Jacqueline Howarth, 71, was diagnosed with breast cancer following a routine mammogram. She had surgery and is receiving hormone therapy and has made a good recovery.
Susan said: “It was a big shock, especially with my mum going through it in June.
“To find out myself, I never would have expected that at all. It was a big shock. You look after yourself, you eat healthily and don’t smoke. When you receive a diagnosis like that, it’s a shock.”
Susan underwent surgery and spent three weeks at The Christie receiving daily radiotherapy.
Sadly, just three days after Susan finished the treatment in January, her father Ronnie, 86, died of aspiration pneumonia.
Susan will continue to have hormone therapy tablets for five years and regular check-ups.
She was not able to run while undergoing the treatment as she focused on beating the cancer.
But in March she returned to her job as access hub supervisor for Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles and started running again.
She said: “It was brilliant. It’s so nice, when you are used to doing it and you have had to give it up, to think you have come through all that treatment and are recovering.
“It was lovely to put on my trainers and go for a run.”
After completing the Race For Life, Susan is continuing to recover and looking to the future.
She plans to keep on running and will train for the London marathon in April.
She deferred her place in this year’s race due to the treatment, but will run next year and raise money for Cancer Research UK as a tribute to both her mum and a close friend battling cancer.
She said: “I just want to focus on getting stronger. I have to think I have got through this now and God forbid it won’t happen again.
“I have to focus on getting back to 100 per cent and think about the marathon and my two lovely children, who I will be able to watch growing up, and try to keep positive.”