Mum-of-two runs her first marathon for charity after breast cancer diagnosis
A WOMAN running her first marathon for charity after a breast cancer diagnosis has vowed to deliver on her very personal challenge.
Claire Williamson (44) from Lisburn, Co Down, has gone from couch to 5k, to half marathon level – and is taking on May's Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon.
She wants to raise money to realise an easier alternative for others going through treatment.
She said: "This was my decision, I have to deliver on it now.
"Whereas, in the past couple of years, I have not had a choice, so I have not had to think about delivering, because I have just had to do it."
Ms Williamson is a mother-of-two boys and said her family had been very supportive after she received her diagnosis in October 2015.
She recalled: "Whenever I realised that I was the last person sitting in the waiting room, I thought, 'something is just not right here'."
She said she was devastated.
She added: "At Antrim Area Hospital, we were taken into a side room and you know you are in trouble whenever they take you to a side room and there are scatter cushions and soft furnishings, you think 'this isn't good'.
"And then they give you a pass to get out of the car park, to give you free car parking, you know you are really sunk at that stage."
She found chemotherapy "brutal".
It left her on sleeping pills and created a "chemo-fog" in her cognitive abilities.
She had finished chemotherapy and herceptin injections in 2017 when the family home burned to the ground along with nearly all their possessions before Christmas.
She said: "I found that harder to deal with than cancer, I think because it affected everybody else around me and affected my children more."
It was an electrical fire caused by a television in the bedroom.
She was in the house with her children who were in bed in the room next to the fire.
She said: "They were woken by me screaming hysterically to get out."
Her older boy Charlie was 8 and ended up carrying his little brother out of bed because he was asleep.
She said: "Bar a few bits and pieces, we lost 90 per cent of everything that we owned.
"That was more difficult to come back from because of how it affected Charlie in particular."
Charlie was left afraid to go to sleep.
"You could not protect them from it, they had been so exposed, they had seen it," she said.
They are renting now.
She said: "We found an amazing house, it is incredible and we are really lucky – we are really lucky unlucky people."
She said the chemotherapy had minimal impact on her children compared to losing all their clothes and toys in the blaze.
Ms Williamson, who works in planning, started running again out of desire to get back in shape following a year of treatment – and enjoys the social aspect of seeing friends while exercising.
She added: "I was now overweight and bald, it is really not a great place to be.
"I thought I needed to take control of this situation again."
She is raising money for the Cancer Focus Northern Ireland charity and said it had been enormously supportive.