Man who had prostate cancer ran London marathon for wife who died of breast cancer

A Surrey man had to learn to walk again after being run over the same year he lost his wife to breast cancer and was himself diagnosed with prostate cancer.

On Sunday (October 3) he ran the London Marathon alongside his son, Andrew, in memory of his late wife, Olga. She died from breast cancer in 2016 and they were married for 31 years.

Jim Jackson, 63, from Ashtead, said: “Every year on the day that my wife died I just go run, run and run. Mentally, you’re in a different place to where you started.”

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He runs a marathon by himself every year on the anniversary of his wife’s death.

Jim said that running has helped to get him through everything. “If I didn’t have running, I probably wouldn’t be here,” he added.

He said: “In the darkest time of all that, if you’ve just got to the end of an 18-mile run, it’s pretty hard to think about anything else. You’re focused on the thing itself, it gives you something to focus on.”

Jim first lost his dad to lung cancer. It was five-and-a-half years ago that his wife, Olga, died from breast cancer.

The next year, Jim’s sister, who was five years older than him, died of ovarian cancer. “We were quite close, so that was difficult,” he said.

Jim’s mum, who is 94, has background breast cancer. “Non-smoking. But she almost died of shingles this year,” said Jim, adding that she finds breathing difficult as a result.

In 2016, the same year Olga died of breast cancer, Jim was run over while he was out on a run in May and had to have brain surgery.

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Jim lost the ability to walk not because of leg injuries, but because of the effects on the brain.

He said: “The main effect was I had forgotten how to walk. So I would just walk and fall over. It took a few weeks to learn again.

“My legs were fine, it was completely to do with the brain, a connection thing. There are worse things you can get, but that’s what I got.”

Jim said it took him about five or six weeks to learn to walk again, after which he was gradually able to start running.

He said: “Once you can walk, you can run – it’s almost easier to run because of the momentum.

“If you watch a toddler going from the sofa to the table and back, look at them, I just thought, ‘that’s what I need to do’.

“They asked me what was going on in my head. I said well, there wasn’t anything else other than just thinking, ‘if you said go and learn the piano, and I haven’t played it before, go and learn it then’. Like a new skill.”

“When the head injury happened, I lost two stones in weight over two days. I was probably running in five or six weeks, I could walk before then but I would fall over a bit. You’ve lost everything, so you just need something you can do.”

Around this time, Jim was getting tested for prostate cancer through his work’s private healthcare. He didn’t have any symptoms but luckily his work used a PSA blood test.

Jim said: “By the time September came around I had got to the point where they had to completely remove the prostate. He didn’t do any radio or chemo, just took it out, which is a high-risk operation in terms of side effects.

“But right now, touch wood, five years later it’s worked. I keep testing every six months.

“PSA is the blood test for prostate cancer. A lot of people have a level of it in the background, I have none, zero, because I don’t have one. If you do get a measure, then you’ve got cancer.”

Jim Jackson

He also had to learn to walk again after he was run over while out running

Despite all the hardship Jim has experienced, he cites running as the main thing that helped him get through everything.

Jim has been running for 12 years now, including three London Marathons and one in Belfast. He first ran a London Marathon in 2017 after having brain surgery and learning to walk again.

He said: “Luckily [my wife] never got to know I had it [prostate cancer]. So the timings missed, so she never knew that, which was good.

“I’ve been running for 12 years and it’s got me through all of this. Most of the doctors didn’t want me to do it but I did run the 2017 London Marathon for Royal Marsden. having figured out how to walk again”

Jim worked for the O2 and used to run the networks operation team. He says his work helped him in every way, even after cancer.

He said: “I was getting lifts into work. This was a brilliant place I’d worked at for a long time and everybody helped me. I couldn’t drive because of the head injury – you’re not allowed to drive for a year.

“It was good, the work side of it, because it’s such a good company and the people in it. Going into the office. I would do it anyway even on the days I wasn’t well just to see people.

“Which I think is a bit mad at the minute, not seeing people. It completely helped me. From the moment I got diagnosed.”

The physical effects Jim had were from the operation, not the cancer itself as he didn’t have any symptoms. He said that at the moment, none of the physical effects are there.

Jim retired from his job a couple years earlier than planned, not because of his illness but rather so he could do other things.

Once he left, he met somebody else who he lives with now, which he says “wasn’t planned, it just happened”.

He added: “If I didn’t have any of that happen, I probably wouldn’t have retired. But I did do difficult jobs. At the end of the day, it was a bit earlier but I thought, ‘I can do other things’.

“My daughter had gone to Australia so we went out there for six weeks to see her. Things we wouldn’t have done before. We got to do a few things before Covid.”

Jim ran the London Marathon at the weekend to help raise funds for The Institute of Cancer Research, London. He also has a JustGiving page.

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