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22nd March 2024

Cancer centre patients and staff do 5k their way to promote health benefits

Cancer centre staff and patients in Swansea are backing a new initiative promoting physical activity before, during and after treatment.

There is increased awareness of the benefits of diet and exercise in helping people prepare for, cope with and recover from cancer treatment.

Swansea is home to the South West Wales Cancer Centre at Singleton Hospital, as well as the neighbouring Maggie’s cancer support centre.

Main pic above – the Swansea 5k Your Way ambassadors. See end of story for full caption.

Now it is also home to a local group of 5k Your Way, a national community-based movement that aims to support people affected by cancer to be active and have control over their lives.

They are invited to take part in a local parkrun on the last Saturday of each month, doing as much or as little as they want, and then to socialise afterwards. The first Swansea 5k Your Way takes place later this month.

Local entertainment legend Kev Johns and several patients who have all undergone treatment at the South West Wales Cancer Centre have agreed to become ambassadors for the Swansea group.

Other ambassadors include a trio from the cancer centre itself: oncologist Laura Jones, Macmillan head and neck oncology clinical nurse specialist Courtney Bell and Macmillan head and neck coordinator and support worker Caroline Bradley.

Laura explained: “There is increasing evidence of the benefits of exercise for people affected by cancer. It means they’re fitter going into treatment, they cope better with it, and they lose less fitness during it.

“It has also been shown that regular exercise actually reduces the chances of relapse in some cancer types. So there is some protection against cancer coming back by being physically active.”

The South West Wales Cancer Centre and Maggie’s are both keen to spread the word about 5k Your Way because of the benefits for patients.

They are already working together on prehabilitation programmes, which support people to get ready for treatment. One is specifically for prostate cancer patients, the other for those with any type of cancer.

The first 5k Your Way event will be held alongside the regular Swansea Bay Parkrun, which sets out from the seafront Secret Bar and Kitchen on Mumbles Road at 9am on Saturday, March 30th.

Anyone wanting to take part should first register for the parkrun via its website and will be met on arrival by the 5K Your Way ambassadors.

Laura said they could run the full 5k, walk a short distance or anything in between. “It’s whatever they feel they can manage,” she said. “It’s all about doing something that increases activity levels for that person.

“We’ll meet people when they arrive and chat with them as we go along. We want to be friendly faces for them, as going to something like a parkrun, even though they are inclusive events, can be intimidating for someone going for the first time, particularly if they are not a runner.

“Apart from the physical benefits there will be psychological benefits too. And it’s a way for people to meet up. After the run or walk or however they do it, we will go for a coffee and a chat.

“So it also functions as a social and support group for people affected by cancer.”

One of the Swansea group ambassadors, Fran Newman, has first-hand experience of the physical and mental benefits of keeping active.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021, shortly after retiring from her job as an NHS GP.

“I started walking again as soon as I could after surgery because I love being outdoors,” said Fran, who lives in Swansea.

“Initially I was just going once round the block and then having a lie down. I was lucky enough to have the support of my friends, who were happy to join me on my walks and for coffee afterwards.

“Pretty soon I was back at parkrun, strolling along at the back or marshalling. When I was ready to start running again I had no shortage of people willing to stick with me to make sure I was okay.

“The conversations we had while walking and running really helped me to cope with my diagnosis and treatment.”