This Sunday, 29 October, Genevieve Clark will tackle 21.1 kilometres at the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Marathon, ticking off a major goal post-cancer treatment.
Last year, at the age of 39, Genevieve was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer. Unsurprisingly it was a tough time in Genevieve’s life, especially for someone who loved to keep active.
Genevieve first underwent surgery, a high anterior resection, followed by six months of chemotherapy.
“Chemo was the hardest part. Feeling like I’d lost control, I worried about my chances of recurrence and obsessed over the unknown, reading every article I could find about cancer cells, treatment outcomes, side effects, looking for anything positive I could do to influence things. I understand a lot better now how vulnerable people can be at this point,” said Genevieve.
“I had moments of blaming myself – had I made poor lifestyle choices – sadness, thinking goodbye to the old carefree me, and overwhelm at the outpouring of care and support.”
During her time undergoing chemotherapy, Genevieve set herself a couple of goals to help keep her going. The first was to share her story to give knowledge and hope to others, and the second was to maintain her fitness and much as she could through treatment and recover well enough to complete the Garmin Half Marathon, part of the Auckland Marathon.
“I’d always wanted to do the Auckland Half Marathon,” she said. “I had planned to do it in 2021, but the date moved due to the COVID-19 pandemic and I wasn’t able to do it that year. The next year in 2022 I was thinking I’d come back and do it, but then I was diagnosed with cancer and so I had to put it off again.
“Doing the half marathon was something I thought about a lot during chemo, I could see myself losing a lot of muscle and fitness, and so it was just nice to have this idea in my head that when it was all done, I would come back this year and train and finish it as a marker of making it through treatment,” said Genevieve.
With the Auckland Half Marathon marking Genevieve’s recovery from cancer, she decided she also wanted to give back to charity and help others in her situation.
Genevieve initially had a goal to raise $2,000 for Bowel Cancer New Zealand, to aid the charity’s efforts in providing support and care to bowel cancer patients and their families, but after smashing that target in just two days, she decided to up the goal to $5,500 – a figure she also now surpassed.
“Personal stories are so powerful when it comes to achieving an outcome or helping other people. I guess if you can’t use things that are meaningful to you in your life to achieve something good, then what are you doing?
“So for me, I was just trying to think about how I could use my experience – not just as a positive thing for myself but for others as well. I’d looked around a lot for stories of people my age and with similar experiences and I realised if I was going to share my story, that then I might as well attach it all together with the event and raising some money and awareness,” she said.
This Sunday is an important day for Genevieve. She will finally tick off a goal many years in the making and prove to herself and others diagnosed with cancer that a full recovery and getting back to doing the things you love is possible.
“I think it’s nice to have someone visible that, hopefully, shows you can recover well from cancer treatment. And so for me being able to come back and do something like this is a really great example of how you can bounce back, you can get back to normal, you can do things that maybe people don’t think is within their reach, within 12 months of finishing chemo,” she said.
“I suppose for me personally, there’s the internal version of that as well, proving to myself that I could get all the way back to performing at the level I was used to and feeling like I could really put the experience behind me as best I could.”
Genevieve will join thousands of others as they are treated to the once-a-year opportunity to cross the Auckland Harbour Bridge on foot, with its stunning 360-degree views of the city, run through the CBD and to the electric finish line in Victoria Park to celebrate their achievements with family and friends.
To support Genevieve and donate to Bowel Cancer New Zealand visit: https://aucklandmarathon2023.grassrootz.com/bowelcancernz/genevieve
- Event media accreditation can be accessed here
For more information and last-minute entries visit the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Marathon website: https://aucklandmarathon.co.nz