A Powys woman is taking on the new ABP Newport Wales Half Marathon after beating breast cancer and overhauling her life.
The distance has been added to the marathon and 10K for 2024 to give runners a further option during event day in April.
Karen Hampson, from Clyro, was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago after finding a lump while watching TV.
The 54-year-old who works as a corporate fundraiser for charity, Farm Radio International, said up until that point she never exercised. But after reading up on research about its benefits as part of cancer recovery, she started running, and said she ‘discovered I can do much more than I ever thought I was capable of’.
Karen said: “I hated exercise before but now I love it. It’s like I’m a different person. I’ve got through cancer and never thought I’d be able to run, but now I class myself as a runner. I can do more than I think I can, and my diagnosis gave me the motivation to get up and do it.”
The mum-of-one first discovered something wasn’t quite right in July 2021.
She said: “It was a Friday night and I was sitting down in front of Gogglebox trying to get comfortable when I felt a lump. I hadn’t been checking myself monthly like you’re supposed to and immediately started worrying.”
Karen got a GP appointment for the following Tuesday and was referred to a specialist who carried out a biopsy, ultrasound and mammogram.
She said: “I thought it would take a little while for them to give me my results, but the consultant told me, while they had to do get the lab results, in his opinion it was most likely breast cancer.
“The thing that really hit me was when I sat down with a nurse afterwards and she handed me her card which said Macmillan Cancer Care. I just didn’t know what to do. I felt like I’d been hit by a bus.”
Karen’s tumour was primary which meant that luckily it could be treated. She had two surgeries to fully remove the lump and was given a medical prosthesis. Then in November 2021 she started chemotherapy, followed by radiotherapy in July 2022.
She said: “Sadly I lost my hair and experienced all the other side effects that chemo brings like sickness and being put through the menopause. When your hair starts to fall out it’s quite distressing as that’s when you know you’re ill, so I cut my long hair short and then eventually shaved it.
“Up until that point I’d never exercised. I drank too much and had wine o’clock every day – I was a drinking couch potato. But when I was diagnosed, I started reading around research and discovered alcohol can contribute to your risk of cancer. So, I stopped drinking and changed my diet. I also read that exercising as much as you can through treatment is very beneficial – both mentally and physically.
“I wanted to live, so tried to do as much as I could.”
Karen walked throughout her treatment and when she was told she was in remission, a month later in August 2022, she started a walk to run course before doing Couch to 5K, supported by a local trainer, Jo Lord, aka The Hay Runner. In September 2023, she had gained the confidence to join The Hay Runner’s trail running group. She also joined an online strength training group for people who’ve had breast cancer called The Big Strong Lasses.
She said: “As strange as this sounds, I feel better after breast cancer than before. I’m so much healthier and feel so much stronger and fitter.
“I managed to run my first 5K in February so running the Newport Half Marathon is a big deal. I know it will be emotional crossing the finish line.”
Karen added: “I’m in remission so there’s no evidence of cancer now, but the thing that hangs over you is that it can come back as either a primary or secondary cancer. It’s a mental struggle as it can feel like there is a tiny black cloud in the back of your mind all the time – but it’s important to keep checking every month.
“That’s why it’s important for me to do everything I can to reduce those risks – and exercise is one of those things.”
Matt Newman, Chief Executive at event organisers Run 4 Wales, said: “Karen is an inspiration to us all. We’re so pleased she is now doing well and can’t wait to congratulate her on crossing the finish line. As she shows, the benefits of exercise are immense, so it’s important we’re all doing what we can to move as much as possible.”
The ABP Wales Newport Half Marathon is a new addition to the Newport Marathon and 10K event which takes place on Sunday 28 April.
Karen is also running to raise money for Cardiff Women’s Aid. To donate visit her fundraising page here.