‘My love letter to our sport’ – by breast cancer patient Hilary

Thursday 21st December 2023

Hilary Carswell in Masters XC action in Glasgow earlier this year (photo by Bobby Gavin)

Fighting a cancer diagnosis can be deeply personal. But it can also be inspirational when patients are open about their issues and want to share their experiences.

Breast cancer sufferer Hilary Carswell of Giffnock North AC has an undimmed passion for the sport and her desire to keep on running shines through her thoughts at the moment. And every stride that she takes.

Here’s a very honest and heart-warming testiomony from Hilary, which we have labelled ‘Love letter to our sport’ . . .

The grit you get from running is a transferable skill that allows you to embrace adversity.

The mental and physical grit. That is what I learned during my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

But firstly let me introduce myself. I run for Giffnock North AC on the south side of Glasgow and was lucky enough to get selected in 2022 for the Masters Scottish XC team.

This selection (via the Scottish Veteran Harriers Club) propelled my training to another level and, with the help of superb coaches at Giffnock (thank you!), led to me achieving new PBs.

I was racing lots. I was lapping it all up. Living the dream! Little did I know that these racing events would become landmarks in my life.

Masters International event in Dublin in November 2022 (Hilary on left)

The day after the British mile in June 2023 I found a lump in my breast whilst doing a regular check-up in the shower. Yes, I found the tumour myself. This is my message to all females over 50: #checkingworks.

The day after the SHVC 5km championships at Clydebank, I received my diagnosis.

Suddenly my world rocketed into a new arena of shock, fear, devastation, and feeling beaten. In my professional life I’m a scientist and pharmacist – I know that one in two of us will have cancer at some point in our lives – so I needed to get myself into a state of ‘not being shocked’ by a cancer diagnosis.

Instead, I sought to embrace it. This takes mental strength and grit. The grit you get from running.

Running hurts! Running makes you comfortable with the uncomfortable. Muscles burn, heart throbs, lungs yearn, gut wrenches. We welcome these aches as a sign of progression.

We run in brutally harsh conditions with our bodies screaming stop. Shifting our negative thoughts to positive ones. Not giving up. Getting back up each time the tough gets going.

Scottish team at outdoor track and field event in Nuneaton in August 2023 (Hilary on right)

These are all traits of determination and composure I’ve used for beating breast cancer. Concentrating on what you’re doing at that moment and ignoring an ever-persistent cloud above your head following you everywhere is mentally hard.

So I decided thereon to . . . live in the moment.

This is what we do when we run – don’t think about that hill ahead but focus only on the bit you’re running at that moment.

Running helps you live in the moment. Herein is my second message: #liveinthemoment.

I used this motto representing Scotland in the Inter-Area track championships in August 2023 and as Scottish Masters XC team reserve in November 2023 whilst undergoing diagnosis and treatment.

So if your mind is swinging between ‘will I/won’t I?’ run;  remember each time you put on those running shoes you’re not just building up a fitness that will make you a better runner; you’re building up a person that will help you embrace life.

Rather than feeling averse, I feel grateful for catching the cancer early #checkingworks; grateful for my positive approach to my diagnosis and treatment #liveinthemoment; and most of all grateful to my family, friends and teammates -your support has been tremendous – thank you!’

Bronze medal at the Lindsays Short Course XC at Kirkcaldy in November 2022



Tags: Features, Giffnock North, Hilary Carswell, Masters athletics, Masters Cross Country, SVHC

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