Some people come back from cancer once – and others, like Inch-born Chris Proby, come back from cancer twice. Not only that, but he’s organising a 5k/10k road run in aid of the Irish Cancer Society in Inch, Gorey, on Sunday, 28 July, 2019.
In 2015, at the age of 32, Chris was diagnosed with aggressive cancer – which was discovered in his leg, a devastating diagnosis for someone who was training to complete his next marathon in less than three hours. “I was training, along with other fellas, when some guy hit me with a football in the leg,” says Chris, who was working in Dublin at the time. “I went to a GP and a physio but the pain was so bad I asked for an MRI. They found a huge tumour in my leg and my femur was almost ready to shatter.”
A body scan showed that Chris had cancer in other parts of the body as well and he was diagnosed with non-Hodgins Lymphoma. As he recounts his treatments, it is easy to under-appreciate the difficulty of each stage of that treatment. “I had five or six months of chemotherapy and radiation, it was heavy treatment as the cancer was aggressive. Then I got the all clear after nine months and, after nine months, relapsed. Then I had more chemotherapy, full body radiation, and a bone marrow transplant. I got the all clear in June 2017 and there’s a really positive outlook for long-term survival if I make it to June 2019 still all clear.”
Not surprisingly, summer 2019 will be significant for Chris, which is why he wants to mark it with the Never Give Up 5k/10k run. “When I was in hospital, my big motivation was to get running again. it helped to keep me focused and determined to win the battle, twice. While I was in hospital I promised myself that once I beat cancer I would combine my love for running and my difficult cancer experience to create something positive, which is why I have organised this event.
“It’s significant for me personally as it’s around my birthday. And it’s significant in that it’s in my home village where I learned to jog.”
Chris has also turned his experience and his desire to help others into a blog, Never Give Up. “I want to help motivate other people and encourage them that you can come out the other side of cancer,” says the former member of Sliabh Bhui Rovers Athletic Club. Indeed, when he was in hospital, he hung his marathon medals off the drip and hung his running photos on the noticeboard as motivation – “I never gave up on my running.”
And his girlfriend, Niamh, and his family never gave up on him. “I met Niamh six months before I was diagnosed with the cancer – six months is not a long time, but she didn’t go anywhere, she stayed with me. She kept me going and I wanted to beat the cancer so I could have my happy life with her.”
Today, Chris is back at work one day a week and building up his days over the next few months. And, ironically, though he cursed the guy whose football hit him above the knee, he feels differently now. “That guy probably saved my life ‘cos it made me get the MRI – what are the odds that, of all the guys jogging that day, he hit me. And what are the odds that, of all the places he could have hit me, he hit me right where the tumour was. You couldn’t make it up!”
Never Give Up 5k/10k race in aid of the Irish Cancer Society, July 28. Book your spot here
Interview: Deirdre O’Flynn